Cuba Cultural Center, Inc.
offers a place of comfort and support for all. At the Center, we encourage families by providing for basic survival needs, offering assistance to those who have long term or permanent needs, and by advocating through policy and justice work. Regardless of spiritual status, income or address, anyone may benefit from the programs offered at the Center.
We encourage and promote participation in our programs as a means of serving the local community and gaining invaluable skills.
Cuba Cultural Center acknowledges that we conduct our work on land stolen from the Haudenosaunee confederacy (more specifically, the O-non-dowa-gah or Seneca nation).We honor the proud and rich history of the Seneca nation, also known as the “Keeper of the Western Door,” which currently has a total enrolled population of nearly 8,000 citizens. We honor and respect their people, past, present, and future, and affirm the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.
After approximately two years of diligent organizational effort, Cuba Cultural Center, Inc. (The Center) opened its doors in 2010. Our Executive Director, Suzanne Klein Flierl, is a co-founder who brought 30 years of assistance to marginalized families through informal volunteer service opportunities in various faith communities. Our first programs included a small, independent food pantry and a community meal program (soup kitchen). Our pantry has grown exponentially since 2010, having served over 1600 different families from the area, and our services have expanded to include survival programs, advocacy, and justice work.
The Center provides for the temporal, emotional, and spiritual needs of the people of Allegany and Cattaraugus counties, NY. We fulfill that mission by promoting the concerns of our clients and other community members, providing for a variety of needs, and empowering people to advocate on their own behalf.
The Center’s survival programs assist families as they struggle to provide the basic needs of their families. Our small food pantry has grown into a multifaceted nutrition center, offering the community meal program, emergency food boxes, a summer feeding program in Cuba, and a Backpack weekend feeding program for a number of children in the Belfast, Cuba, and Friendship school systems. We offer trauma and suicide bereavement support groups. We set up a community garden to increase the availability of fresh produce in our pantry, as well as a farmers’ and artisans’ market which accepts SNAP benefits. Our bicycle program was added to provide exercise and entertainment for children in our communities. After an apartment complex fire which left 16 families in Cuba homeless in 2011, we became a service unit extension of the Salvation Army. As a non – proselytizing, benevolence providing unit, we continue to alleviate poverty and homelessness by providing assistance with rent, utilities, shelter and other basic needs.
Our advocacy work began shortly after we opened our doors. We serve on the Allegany County Food and Suicide Prevention Coalitions, the Allegany County Housing and Homelessness Task Force, and work collaboratively with a host of area partners. Our Executive Director serves on the board of the Hunger Action Network of New York State, as well as on the NY-501 Regional Continuum of Care for HUD planning purposes. We strive to combat the injustices of systemic racism and poverty poverty, militarism, and environmental devastation.We regularly join anti-poverty advocates at state and national conferences and participate in meeting with elected officials to advocate for the survival and justice needs of our communities. A full list of our collaborative partners is available upon request.
Since 2015, The Center has been working to improve our trauma informed and trauma sensitive approaches to service. Trauma Informed Care (TIC) was the topic of our Executive Director’s Masters Thesis, and she is also a graduate of the University of Buffalo Department of Sociology’s Trauma Champion training program. In the spring of 2019, The Center will undertake a major project to make the organization more sensitive to the core components of TIC, as well as bring TIC trainings to the staff, administrators, and volunteers of many organizations in Allegany County.
Governance & Funding
The Center started with an organizing board of five (5) members. Three of those original members still serve the Center in this capacity. We’ve been working to diversify the board, in order to make it more representative of the people we serve, and three of our board members have been, or are currently participants in some of our programs.
Our Executive Director was a non-paid position until 2013. All other staff, administrators, and service providers serve in volunteer positions. Many of them are poor or otherwise oppressed individuals, providing for their neighbors as well as for their own households. We are a Jobtrak work site and have several work crews from the local Rehabilitation Center and 6-1-1 program at the Cuba Rushford School System. While it is a goal of ours to be able to hire several full-time employees in the future, and to fully fund a salary for our Executive Director, our experience over the past 10 years has proven that the people who struggle with poverty and injustice are kind, generous folks who are happy and willing to give to their community by volunteering at the Center. In many ways, this makes The Center unique in its approach to service provision.
In 2015, The Center assumed ownership of the building in which we have been housed since the summer of 2012. We are delighted by the fact that we own the building without a mortgage or any purchase related debt.
Much of our income is provided through grant opportunities. To date, we have received annual grants from the Hunger Prevention Nutrition Assistance Program to help purchase food and equipment and provide some assistance with utilities. We’ve also received past grant monies from the Renodin Foundation and the United Way, as well as from Hunger Free America. Local donations have been minimal in past years, but we are very proud of our ability to work with 90% of our annual assets coming from InKind Donations. We recently established a fundraising plan which we hope will increase that funding stream.
Our work has received recognition for our service to the community by both the Cuba Chamber of Commerce and Congressman Tom Reed. We’re thankful for the work of our great team, which is fully responsible for earning the honor they so rightfully deserve.
Over the past 10 years, The Center has become a fixture of the anti-poverty work in Allegany and Cattaraugus counties, NY. We are respected by our collaborative partners, as well as by the clients we serve. We look forward to strong, ongoing relationships with our current partners, as well as to building new relationships with new colleagues in anti-poverty and justice work. We hope enhance the vibrancy and diversity of our revenue streams, and to expanding our local, regional, state, and national advocacy and justice work.
Center Staff &
Board of Directors
Suzanne Klein Flierl
Executive Director and Secretary. Suzanne is the Co-founder and Executive Director of the Cuba Cultural Center. She received her BS in Humanities from the University of Rochester, and earned her Master of Nonprofit Management degree from Regis University. After working with marginalized individuals and families informally for 30 years, Suzanne’s formal work to alleviate hunger and poverty in Allegany and Cattaraugus counties started in 2010.Ms. Klein Flierl serves on several local, regional, and state coalitions regarding the root causes of poverty, and is on the board of the Hunger Action Network of New York State. She also advocates at the state and federal levels to promote various anti-poverty policies.Suzanne is a mother, grandmother, and domestic violence survivor, who has personal, lived experience with poverty.
Food Pantry Manager. Carrie has been volunteering at various organizations in Allegany County for the past 10 years, and has brought that experience to her work as part of the Center’s volunteer team for the last 2.5 years. She recently assumed the role of food pantry manager. Carrie feels great when she can put a smile on the face of someone who is going through hard times, and is especially happy to help out families with children.
IT Consultant. Drew is a software developer in Rochester, NY. He has worked with the Center in a variety of roles since its founding, and appreciates the opportunity to stay involved by providing IT support even after moving away from Cuba
AmeriCorps VISTA Dave Gaetta first started visiting the Center at its inception in 2010. Dave has been volunteering since May of 2013 and has volunteered in many capacities – “I volunteer at an administrative level now, but have done it all!”Dave is the VISTA Resource & Partnership Developer as he volunteers as an AmeriCorps VISTA. Dave has been a VISTA volunteer for over 4 years. In his free time, Dave is a drummer/vocalist in 3 band and plays softball. Additionally he is a proud father of one child and to his fur babies, dogs Sydney and Bella, cats Elijah and Greysee, and bird Harriett.
Administrative Assistant Leah Weber started volunteering in fall 2018 as an administrative assistant responsible for organizing documents and creating the Center website. Originally wanting to remain behind the scenes, Leah started helping with distributions and found to her surprise that she LOVED it. In fall of 2020, Leah started volunteering in a full-time capacity as the Social Media Manager through AmeriCorps VISTA sponsored by Hunger Free America. In this role she works to create an online presence for the Center AND gets to help with distributions. She welcomes any questions or recommendations for our Facebook, Twitter, webpage, etc. Leah is currently working on her Information Technology A.S. at Jamestown Community College. In her free time she loves all things Harry Potter, caring for her fur babies, and gardening.
Kelly Ann Kowalski
Board President Kelly Ann Kowalski’s areas of specialty include SNAP outreach, advertising, workshops, supervising, working with volunteers, hunger and food justice, community gardens, budgets and vouchering, education, social work, and sociology. Additionally, Kelly Ann has been on the Hunger Action of NYS Board since 2011 and has provided ongoing garden and herb workshops to various community groups since 2005.Kelly Ann currently serves as the Center’s Board President.
Board Vice-President Earle Bluff has served The LORD in the ministry of Cuba Cultural Center since 2009. He lives with his wife in South Carolina, but has been involved in nearly every aspect of the Center’s needs and business, through phone, email and other technology. Despite the distance, Earle has worked closely with the Executive Director and local staff. Previously, Earle was privileged to serve as President and is now serving as Vice-President of the Center. He is now retired from the United States Army Reserve, after long service in public affairs, military history, and operations. Earle is grateful to continue serving, as the Lord allows. Proverbs 3, v 5 – 6.”
Board Treasurer Teri has been a resident of Allegany County for the past 20 years. She is a Napa, California transplant, where she graduated from High School and attended college. Teri’s professional history includes managing food warehouses for the U.S. Army in Europe, many years in retail food management, and 21 years as a Nutrition Program Educator with Cornell University Cooperative Extension of Allegany County. She nutrition education, targeting economically challenged families in their homes and at centers like Cuba Cultural Center. I have served on the Board of Directors of the Allegany Council on Substance Abuse and Addiction for the past 12 years, and attends church at Mount Irenaeus.“This is the community I chose to live and raise my kids in, and to serve in anyway my talents could be of use. I now have grandchildren growing up in our county, and together we participate in volunteer efforts whenever we can.”
Board Director Elisa Painter currently works as a Health Benefit Representative and Care Coordinator. In addition to her work with the Cuba Cultural Center, Elisa is an active volunteer as the State Primary Second Counselor of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. She has experience with therapeutic foster and family care, business management, and humanitarian care. Elisa also brings her training in human rights to her work at the Center, as well as her understanding of the challenges faced by people struggling with mental health diagnoses. Elisa has had a wide variety of volunteer experiences and a volunteer management background which makes her a fantastic part of our governing team.
Board of Trustees
The Cuba Cultural Center Board of Directors meetings are open to the public. An updated 2021 list of dates will be available soon.Contact us if you would like to attend.
Conflict of Interest Policy, click here.
Designated Representative Form, click here.
Client Intake Form, click here.