A Global Pandemic Makes its IMPACT in 2020 Rev. Joseph L. Levesque, C.M. Institute for Civic Engagement


True to Niagara University's Vincentian Mission and the work of St. Vincent DePaul, the question "What must be done?" brought a greater need for action than ever before.

The Levesque Institute for Civic Engagement is committed to the revitalization of the City of Niagara Falls and the Western New York Region. Although the pandemic caused much of the world to pause, the work of the Institute continued through innovative, impactful, and safe programming. Within each of the four pillars, programs and projects are designed with measurable outcomes that seek to bring systemic change and improve quality of life for those we serve.


  • 3,967 children and adults were served through Institute efforts.
  • Our Early Childhood efforts impacted 1,106 children.
  • 418 professionals participated in our early childhood and mental health initiatives.
  • Our Community Outreach efforts reached 1,334 individuals and children.
  • Our efforts to provide the community with online support resources through the Covid-19 pandemic created an economic impact value of over $105,000.00.
  • 756 individuals benefitted from our various Health & Wellness efforts.
  • Funding efforts were created to eliminate housing blight in the City of Niagara Falls.
  • 353 students served 73 organizations remotely, realizing an economic impact value of $213,639.20.
  • 141 children received ASQ screenings, books, and developmentally appropriate activities through the Book in a Box program, an innovative approach to replacing our in person Books, Balls, and Blocks events.
  • 79 professionals completed Pyramid Model training, impacting 44 early childhood classrooms and 1,106 children.
  • 19 child care, school district, and community organization representatives have completed Positive Solutions for Families training.
  • 87 representatives from various sectors attended the virtual Kindergarten Transition Summit.
  • 52 students completed one of four mental health and early childhood course offerings provided through funding from Mother Cabrini Health Foundation, enhancing shortages in mental health professions.
  • Our early childhood focused webinars reached over 165 early childhood professionals during Mental Health Awareness Week in November 2020.
  • 72 individuals participated in Leadership and Civic Engagement webinars held during Fall 2020.
  • During Covid-19, time was spent collecting resources and developing a website, which attracted over 550 unique views, creating an economic impact value of $105,000.00.
  • In collaboration with New York State Parks, three Saturday Storybook Strolls for Candy Cane Story Lane attracted 61 families, including 156 children to read a holiday story in a safe environment at New York State Prospect Park.
  • Linking Literacy to Movement continued to grow, with 36 City of Niagara Falls School District students participating. This program became virtual in response to the pandemic, engaging six College of Education students in planning and implementing literacy lessons for local youth. Nine Niagara University athletes also participated virtually.
  • Project Connect Niagara distributed 400 personal care bags, emergency food bags, and Tops gift cards to community partners who assist those with immediate basic needs.
  • The Institute partnered with the Vincentian Mission Committee to organize a donation drive to benefit several local community partners to meet the needs of those facing food insecurity. This 10-day donation drive raised $2,700 to assist 675 individuals in the community.
  • 67 members of the University community completed a virtual training offered during Mental Health Awareness Week in November 2020.
  • 14 individuals, including 11 from Niagara University, became nationally certified Mental Health First Aid instructors. These trainees will provide three trainings in Mental Health First Aid to various audiences during 2021, reaching a minimum of 300 people.
  • Niagara Falls is one of ten cities awarded a Cities Rise Grant intended to advance neighborhood revitalization and help cities address the blighted housing and code enforcement challenges.
  • As a result, a $507,000 Housing Stabilization Fund was established for properties with code violations.
  • 211/311 call centers were developed.
  • A cadre of funders was developed for eligible first time homebuyers, supporting $40-50,000 per home.
  • A webpage was designed for first time homebuyers listing available funding resources.
  • 353 students participated in virtual service during Fall 2020.
  • 388 unique service experiences were reported; 83 of these were skills-based.
  • 3,515 hours of service were completed, realizing an economic impact value of $213,639.20 during the Fall 2020 semester.
  • 73 organizations served.
  • 93% of our students reported that they believe their career choice can make a significant impact on the community where they reside. This is an increase from 88% during the 2019-20 academic year.
  • 37 of these students completed projects embedded in their coursework through our Faculty Learning Community.



Mother Cabrini Health Foundation - Vincentian Congregation of the Mission - Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation - Niagara Area Foundation - Elizabeth and Peter Tower Foundation - Greater Niagara United Way - Niagara Falls City School District - City of Niagara Falls - Health Foundation of Western and Central New York


Patricia Wrobel

Executive Director

Brittany DePietro

Institute/IMPACT Program Manager

Lynnette Haley O’Stewart, PhD

Director, Early Childhood Initiatives

Kara Oliver

Director of Strategic Initiatives

Elizabeth Falzone, PhD

Literacy Outreach/TESOL Clinician

Justina Freedman

Mentor/Coach, Niagara Quality Improvement Project