Our Story

From our early years to where we are today, find out how we’ve evolved and grown as a foundation.

Founded in 2002 as the Community Health Foundation of Western and Central New York, we awarded our first grants in April 2004. Since that time, we have awarded more than 500 grants totaling more than $50 million to fund programs in 16 counties in western and central New York. From our inception, we have focused our funding on programs that improve health outcomes for two underserved populations in our regions – older adults and children birth to age five who are impacted by poverty. 

Over the course of our history, that evolved to include community health capacity — the ability of our region’s health systems and community-based organizations to meet the needs of the people we serve. In 2020, we re-affirmed our commitment to these focus areas and evolved our vision through the lens of racial and socioeconomic health equity.

The Early Years


Health Care Plan founded, serving members in Western New York


Health Services Medical Corporation founded, serving members in central New York


Health Care Plan and Health Services Medical Corporation merge to become Univera Health Care


Univera Health Care merges into Excellus, a Blue Cross Blue Shield plan based in Rochester, NY

October 2001

As a result of this merger, the Community Health Foundation of Western and Central New York is founded and endowed with assets that would eventually total approximately $100 million


Governance and legal infrastructure of Foundation developed
2003 to 2008


Foundation begins operations with offices in Buffalo and Syracuse, NY


Board of Trustees hires Ann F. Monroe as Foundation’s first president


Foundation issues first RFP and chooses funding priorities: frail elders and children living in communities of poverty


Our Early Vision:

Frail elders live out their lives in keeping with their wishes
Children living in communities of poverty reach their full physical, emotional and academic potential
Programs included: Nuts and Bolts, Transitions of Care, Early Childhood Connections, Neighborhood Action Initiative, Falls Prevention, Sharing Your Wishes, Health Leadership Fellows, Reaching for Excellence

2009 Strategic Sharpening

Board and staff examined the investments the foundation made and the impact those investments had. As a result, we sharpened our focus on children and elders and refined our visions for both populations. We also formally developed a third focus area – Building Community Health Capacity.
2009 to 2014

Our Vision

Decline is deferred and frail elders function successfully within the community with effective health care and supports
Children ages birth to 5 living in poverty are healthy and ready to succeed in school
Ensure that people and communities have what they need to make good health decisions and are supported by high quality, appropriate health care

Programs included: CHOMPERS!, The Right Start, Geriatric Workforce Initiative, Step Up to Stop Falls, Maternal and Child Health, Midwifery, Federally Qualified Health Center Booster Project, Fellows Action Network


We celebrated our 10th anniversary and changed our name to the Health Foundation for Western and Central New York.

2014 Strategic Sharpening

We reaffirmed our commitment to our three focus areas, developed a set of eight principles that guide our work and refined our visions in each focus area.

Our Vision Then:

All older adults are to plan for and maintain a dignified, independent, high-quality life in their communities
All children affected by poverty are physically, socially and emotionally healthy as they enter kindergarten
All communities are able to plan for, and address, the health needs of the most vulnerable and those in poverty


Nora OBrien-Suric, Ph.D. hired as second president of the Health Foundation for Western and Central New York.


The Health Foundation announces its new vision: A healthy central and western New York where racial and socioeconomic equity is prioritized so all people can reach their full potential and achieve equitable health outcomes.

Looking Ahead

While the needs of our community members and the health care landscape continue to change, and our strategic approaches evolve to meet those needs, the heart of our work remains our mission to improve health and health care in western and central New York.