With a bachelor’s degree in communications, a record of community involvement and eight years experience in advertising, Batavia native Leanna Di Risio knew when the Vibrant Batavia Community Organizer position came along, it was the perfect fit.
While Di Risio worked for the Genesee Valley PennySaver, she volunteered for the Business Improvement Distirct, and that really opened her eyes to community involvement.
“The first event I took part in was the Taste of Fall Wine Walk, which has become a well-known event for Downtown," Di Risio said. What made that event so worth the effort as a volunteer was seeing the streets filled with people; people who were going from business to business. This created a feeling of exhilaration, just to know that I was a part of making this event possible and it was successful, as it was well attended.”
Vibrant Batavia is a group of dedicated volunteers; both business owners and residents who wish to help Batavia realize its "vibrant" potential.
The City of Batavia and Vibrant Batavia, in partnership with NeighborWorks Rochester, hired the 1998 Batavia High School graduate for the job in community relations. The 34-year-old is paid by Vibrant Batavia, which was given $45,000 from the city to hire a coordinator and plan neighborhood events and the city’s upcoming centennial celebration.
Di Risio was one of six candidates interviewed by a group of city leaders including City Manager Jason Molino and Pastor Marty Macdonald of City Church.
“Leanna was chosen for the position because of her 'can-do' attitude," Molino said. "She brings an excellent work ethic to community development efforts in the City and she’s a natural people person. Working in neighborhoods with residents and business owners requires you to have a positive attitude and genuine interest in what people are telling you. Leanna has interest in the residents of this community and wants to be a part of making this community a better place for everyone.”
Although Di Risio has the education and background to lead the way in community revitalization, during college she did not see herself coming back to live in her small hometown. She was attending Buffalo State College where she was planning to become an elementary school teacher.
“In the course of my experience in a classroom, I realized that it was more than just playing games and doing projects with kids, which was what I desired," Di Risio said. "At that point I gave all of my past teachers MUCH credit for doing what they did and retired the idea."
During this time her mother passed away at the young age of 45 and she came back home to help care for her 8-year-old brother. She transferred and commuted to Brockport State College, where she received her degree in communications.
Di Risio currently lives in Batavia with her husband Dan and their two children: 9-year-old Vincent and 4-year-old Luciana. She is enthusiastic about her new position and has already had the opportunity to meet with many residents throughout the City for Coffee Talk events. The five Coffee Talk Events were successful and Di Risio was able to compile a list of ideas generated by residents through surveys, which are still available at http://vibrantbatavia.com/survey/.
“Leanna is strong on her way to fulfilling some of the objectives that the Vibrant Batavia Team had established based on City Council’s findings,” Macdonald said. “Leanna's passion is recognized in everything she does.”
The goal is to build upon neighborhood strengths and assets. With guidance from residents, Vibrant Batavia will highlight characteristics and unique personalities of each neighborhood in an effort to rebuild connections.
“In some cases, it is a matter of focusing on your own property, planting flowers, keeping up on regular maintenance of your home and then reaching out to help others," Di Risio said. "That could be as simple as helping an elderly neighbor shovel snow in the winter months or chipping in on maintaining a vacated lot by mowing the lawn so these properties represent the tidiness of the street. I have already begun to coordinate block parties, street clean-ups and community events to open the lines of communication between neighbors and make for a stronger neighborhood.”
Last weekend, Vibrant Batavia hosted a Fall Frolic Clean-up covering Bank Street, Tracy Avenue, Hart Street and North Street. The event was supported by Batavia Ramparts Squirt Travel Hockey Team, which Di Risio’s son plays on. Team members, as well as their parents, joined in the clean-up effort. Afterward Tracy Avenue residents Bob and Char Grimm hosted lunch, which was provided by Vibrant Batavia.
Vibrant Batavia is now working with Genesee Cancer Assistance to promote the Holiday Tour of Homes. The event will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. on Dec. 8 and includes six homes in Batavia. Interested participants can contact Di Risio at 585-738-7388 to purchase tickets and they will also be available the day of the tours at each of the homes.
Moving into the winter months, Vibrant Batavia will focus on community events, such as a sledding celebration at Centennial Park and having NeighborWorks Rochester lead community-wide forums to discuss the opportunities to further improve the community. Batavia residents can follow their efforts on Facebook and see upcoming events at www.vibrantbatavia.com.