As the new director of development for Read to Succeed Buffalo Inc., Michael Benzin will design a funding plan for the coalition that focues on literacy campaigns. In more than two decades of work, the Western New York native has held similar posts with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Erie County,Roswell Park Cancer Institute and Aspire of WNY.

"Read to Succeed is an entirely different type of organization," Benzin said. "It is more of a movement, a coalition of providers that help lead the drive to improve literacy in Buffalo."

Though literacy is an ongoing problem throughout Western New York, much of the group's effort is focused in the inner city, working with young children before they enter school.

"We've got some very exciting programs on the East Side that are preparing children for kindergarten," he said. "Before Read to Succeed started, kids were not showing up ready to learn. They were one or two years behind where they should have been developmentally. What we found in our first year was that 80 percent of the kids were ready for kindergarten which was a dramatic improvement over the 50 percent the year before we started."

Benzin acknowledged these are tough times to be fund-raising but he has weathered economic cycles and says that things always bounce back.

"It is certainly challenging, but I wouldn't take a job that wasn't challenging for me personally," he said. "What's great about Buffalo is the resiliency of its people. They support causes they believe in regardless of the economy."

Finally, how does it feel to go to work each day knowing that what you do is impacting thousands of children, in many cases, in life-changing ways?

"To know that the things we are doing now will raise the quality of life throughout Buffalo and have lasting effects for years to come is tremendously satisfying."

- Matt Chandler