Stories of Believe in Syracuse Fellows


Application Deadline: May 25th!

Pictured below, Molly was studying Graphic Design at Cazenovia College and wanted to put her talents to work and make a difference. Molly's contribution to Believe in Syracuse not only significantly built up her portfolio but also made a huge impact in helping us advance our mission through social media. She was a huge help in promoting our community events.


Pictured below - top right: Gwen was studying Marketing at Lemoyne and wanted to gain experience in fundraising. Her father works at Cornell and told her about how lack of funding can be such a challenge in non-profits and universities. While Gwen was with Believe in Syracuse she was able to get experience with exciting fundraising events. She successfully collected many corporate sponsorship donations and made our organization stronger.


Why become a Believe in Syracuse Summer Fellow?

  • Get Experience Working in the Non-Profit Sector
  • Be a leader in your community
  • Make a Difference
  • Build Your Resume
  • Join a Growing Organization

Wherever you are in life (High School student, College student, retiree or somewhere in between), if you have 15 hours/week to volunteer this summer, this is the opportunity for you. If not, please share this with anyone you know.

The application deadline is just one week away! Click here and apply now.


John DeSantis

P.S. FOCUS Greater Syracuse and Believe in Syracuse are hosting a forum next week about showcasing Greater Syracuse as a positive place to work and live. To learn more and RSVP to attend this free event, click here.


Matt's Story - Why he believes in Syracuse


Pictured above: John DeSantis and Matthew Grandjean

Q&A with Matthew Grandjean, Director of Sales, ChoicePay Payroll

Q: Tell me a little bit about yourself? 

A: Born in Syracuse and grew up in Eastwood until moving out to Baldwinsville in third grade. Worked at Disney World through the Disney College Program. Graduated from the University at Buffalo. I recently got married and reside in the village of Cazenovia.

Q: What is your business and what does it do? 

A: ChoicePay Payroll – We are a payroll company in Syracuse that offers businesses a local alternative to PayChex and ADP.  

Q: Why did you go into this line of work? 

A: I enjoy solving problems and helping people in need when it comes to their businesses

Q: Why do you believe in Syracuse? 

A: Syracuse was once a powerhouse. I believe there are remnants of pride here that can bring it back to the glory days.

Q: What do you love about living in Syracuse? 

A: People think we are crazy for living in the snowiest city in the country. I love that! It is something to embrace and identify with.  

Q: What makes Syracuse a great place for your business or organization? 

A: This city is made up of many small to mid-size businesses with a strong entrepreneurial spirit. We can relate to many of them making it easy to understand the need and wants of their demands.

Q: How can readers learn more about your business and how can folks work with you/become a customer? 

You can follow us on social media platforms –Facebook-Instagram-Twitter. You can personally connect with me on LinkedIn, always looking to connect the dots in Syracuse over a cup of coffee. We also have a Podcast Let me know if you ever want to be on it!


Believe in Syracuse Spotlight: Deborah Hundley of Providence Services of Syracuse


Pictured above:

Bottom Left: The new van for The Shuttle To Work Program of Providence Services of Syracuse. Far right: Deborah Hundley. Top Left: Some of Providence's Riders.

Q&A with Deborah Hundley, President of Providence Services of Syracuse Inc

Q: Tell me a little bit about yourself?

A: I have 4 Children and have lived in the Syracuse area over 25years. In 2014 I retired as a Financial Advisor and founded a nonprofit to help people to get jobs as a give back to the City.

Q: What is your organization and what does it do?

A: Providence Services of Syracuse is a nonprofit that helps low-income City residents get jobs by helping them overcome the transportation barriers that block them from most jobs. We believe everyone should have the opportunity to get a job and lack of transportation should not keep them from being self-sufficient. We offer a Shuttle To Work program that can provide affordable, reliable transportation to work. If a Company has difficulty getting employees it probably is due Transportation. A Company can sponsor a Shuttle for their employees or if there are 5-7 employees needing transportation we can begin a Shuttle.

Q: Why did you go into this line of work?

A: Early in one of our first Board meetings, a Director told us there were plenty of jobs but no transportation to get people there. After we researched this, we learned this is a primary reason for poverty across the world. We decided we would focus on the barriers to overcoming poverty.

Q: Why do you believe in Syracuse?

A: Across the Country, employers cannot get enough employees. Syracuse has a large untapped pool of job seekers. If 4000 people can get jobs because they have transportation, it would stimulate the economy with $80-$120 million by the spending their salaries. It will also attract new employers who will expand jobs and development.
Everything will improve.

Q: What do you love about living in Syracuse?

A: Summer and Fall are wonderful. The parks, Arts, Colleges and low cost of Housing are pluses. We are close to big Metros and Canada so a lot to see and do.

Q: What makes Syracuse a great place for your business or organization?

A: People in Syracuse really care about diversity and helping people in need.

Q: How can readers learn more about your organization and how can folks work with you?

A: Contact us on our website: Or email me at

5 Of The Best Parks in Syracuse

Upper Onondaga Park - Upper Onondaga Park Website

Located on the South Side / Strathmore, this park is a great place to spend time with your family, friends, dogs or just have some alone time! This 62-acre park includes picturesque Hiawatha Lake and the gorgeous Gazebo. The scenery is breathtaking, even when covered in snow!  Great photo opportunities for all occasions here!

Features of this park...

Hiawatha Lake and Band Gazebo - A must see!  This lake dates back to 1911, and the breathtaking Gazebo followed just a few short years later 

Swimming (Outdoor) Pool - 50 meters long, 6 lanes, children's spray fountain

Athletic Fields and Courts - 8 tennis courts and 3 basketball courts

Playground - Swings, slides, seesaws, and climbing bars

Firebarn - has been restored for community use (visit their website listed above for more info)

Barry Park -Barry Park Website

Nestled in the Westcott neighborhood, this park is perfect for family time! The park is 15 acres and packed with fun. 

Features of this park...

Athletic Fields and Courts  - A baseball diamond;4  soccer fields; 2 tennis courts; 1 basketball court

Trail that wraps the pond - Feed the ducks

Playground - Swings, slides, seesaws, and climbing bars

E.M. Mills Rose Garden - E. M. Mills Rose Garden Website

Located inside Thornden Park and near Syracuse University, this memorial rose garden was named for Dr. E. M. Mills in commemoration of his services to American rose-growing. The garden was established with an effort to meet three requirements: 1) harmony of color, 2) the hardiness required by our climate - See Syracuse weather brings about such beauty!, 3) such wide variety of types and kinds as to be educational to the rose-lovers who live in and visit our beloved Syracuse.

The very best time for a visit is in June when roses are in bloom!

Features of this garden park...

Stroll, stroll, stroll

Take photos for all your special occasions

Meditate or Read

A nice spot for a date with that special someone

Westminster Park - Westminster Park Website

Set in the Syracuse University area, this park makes it easy to just sit back and relax. While this park might not boast the family-friendly allure of a playground or basketball court, rest-assure (pun intended) it is a great location for those who need a little alone time. With 4 acres and lots of sidewalks, this could be a great way to get in your daily steps.

Features of this park...

Reflect and journal

Walk your dogs

Go for a run

Franklin Square Park -Franklin Square Park Website

Located near downtown where Plum and Solar Streets meet, this park is a city jewel!  Fountains and gardens and arbors, oh my! Beauty, beauty, beauty - did we mention the beauty of it?!  Fun Fact: This park's namesake comes from the H. H. Franklin Manufacturing Company that produced cars in this area from 1902 to 1934.

Features of this park...

Enjoy the beauty of it

Read, relax, have a cup of coffee from the nearby cafe

Take photos for your special occasion - many use this park for wedding ceremonies or just as a photo backdrop 

Did your favorite park not make the list? Let us know what your favorite spot is in Syracuse!



Syracuse is rising because local businesses and non-profits help local people and our economy grow. Join in with us and become a sponsor by April 27th to help us get more people to believe in Syracuse.

On May 1st, Believe in Syracuse will embark upon a monthlong celebration and mass media campaign to promote local businesses, employers, specifically our sponsors who contribute to making Syracuse a more positive place.

This offers an amazing opportunity for new sponsors to sign up, existing sponsors to renew their sponsorship and take advantage of the following:

- Mass email to our 4,100 subscriber list and to our 700 member LinkedIn group that mentions your business or organization, info on the work you do, and promotes a call to action for your organization in the body of the email
- Article on announcing our active sponsors, mentioning your business or organization and the work you do
- Inclusion in a press release about our sponsors that will be sent to all local news outlets, likely resulting in local TV coverage
- Upon request, Believe in Syracuse will work with you to compose and publish an article on our blog, the entirety of which will be about your organization and will share this blog post to our Facebook Page (9,585 followers), Twitter (9,831 followers) and on LinkedIn.
- Provide access to a member of your team to post in our Facebook Group (2,061 members) up to twice per week for a month
- And more! Is there something your business has planned for May? Let us know and we can promote that as well!

Are you interested in learning more? Contact John DeSantis at or call 315-657-7478. 


Local Businesses and Nonprofits drive progress in this community and make it a great place to live. That's why leaders from their organizations make up our Advisory Council which helps Believe in Syracuse retain and attract residents to the Greater Syracuse Community. Join us!

Here are some of our current sponsors who are part of our Sponsor Advisory Council

  • Joe Convertino Jr. and David Graham from CH Insurance
  • Clifton Carden from Carden Dotzler Hammond - Attorneys At Law
  • Ben Tupper from Beer Belly Deli
  • Phil Van Horne and Mackenzie Naum from BlueRock Energy
  • Ann Marie Warner and Sue Wallace from AP Professionals
  • John Viggiano and Phil Bova from Simon’s Agency
  • Andrew Schuster and Edward McGraw at Ashley McGraw Architects
  • Jesse McCormick from McCormick Internet Consultants
  • Troy Evans, Real Estate Developer and Owner of Commonspace
  • Tison Kelley from Breakthrough Design
  • Michael Gilbert, It’s About Childhood & Family
  • Esther Zorn, Keller Williams Real Estate
  • Evelyn Carter, Wegmans Food Markets
  • Deborah Hundley, Providence Services of Syracuse
  • Del Lago Resort & Casino
  • Woodbine Hospitality Group - Tom Fernandez
  • Michael Sgro, LLC
  • Hill & Associates Financial Services - Charles Polka



Believe in Syracuse Mural RFP Deadline One Week Away!

Back in November, we announced plans to install a mural at 1022 W. Fayette Street. The official request for proposals (RFP) was released last year and the deadline for artists to submit proposals is Friday, March 16th. 

The total project budget is up to $20,000. There is up to $12,000 available to the artist in 2018. The remainder of the funds are budgeted for maintenance of the mural and to promote the artwork and its message across the greater Syracuse community.

Paul Colabufo, President of the Believe in Syracuse Board of Directors, noted a renewed interest in the arts in CNY with many projects and new venues. "Combined they change Syracuse drastically, and for the better, by making it a more beautiful and interesting place to live," Colabufo stated.

Complete details and the official RFP can be found on our website at

Artists must submit proposals no later than March 16, 2018. A panel of local judges will choose the winning submission on May 1. The project is expected to begin shortly after. The submission will be chosen based on a variety of factors focusing heavily on the artist whose artwork promotes a positive perception and inspires a sense of pride in Syracuse.

Believe in Syracuse is a non-profit organization with a mission to promote positive aspects of Greater Syracuse and help improve the quality of life for its residents. Artwork which helps spread the Believe in Syracuse message can increase the emotional connection to the area.

The project is expected to be completed by the end of Summer. The mural is in a high traffic area on Syracuse's West Side. The area has gained a lot of attention in the artistic community and is becoming a bright spot in the community.

"The Gear Factory and Lipe Art Park are drawing talented and creative people to the Near Westside," Colabufo said. "We want our mural to fit into this culture and help advance the wonderful changes they have already made possible."

High visibility and recognition will be great for any established or new artist.


Sponsor Spotlight: Wendy and BlueRock Energy

BlueRock Energy is a great locally owned business and a premier provider of electricity, natural gas, & green energy.

Wendy Hijos is their Director of Corporate Marketing. Take a look at what she had to say about their work as a sponsor of Believe in Syracuse.

Why do you believe in Syracuse?
I believe in Syracuse because I believe in CNY, I believe in supporting your community and keeping dollars in our region in order to support private business and create jobs.

Why did you become a sponsor of Believe in Syracuse?
Sponsoring this organization shows the people and the businesses in Syracuse that they matter, and we believe in restoring the community.

What do you like about our organization?
What I like most about this organization is that it keeps our newest graduates close to home. Our latest college and high school graduates see that living and working in the city they were raised in offers them opportunity, and that moving out of state, or downstate isn't necessary when there are job opportunities right here.

Has your organization benefited from partnering with Believe in Syracuse? If so, how?
Partnering with this organization shows we support the local businesses which gives us more credibility to us as we prospect and sell our services to them here locally.


Wendy recently represented BlueRock Energy at a press conference organized by Believe in Syracuse that was covered by CNY Central and Spectrum News CNY TV Stations.

Since July of 2017, BlueRock has been featured in more than 30 social media posts on Believe in Syracuse accounts. Those posts have been seen more than 32,000 times with more than 1,600 post engagements. In addition, their logo has been featured on every page of our website all year and that logo links to their website.

Are you interested in being a sponsor of Believe in Syracuse, helping us make a difference and gaining exposure in the community at the same time? A sponsorship could cost as little as $375 per year. Contact John DeSantis at 315-657-7478 or email him at to chat about your options!


Birthday Party Survey and Thank You

What are your thoughts on our 5th Birthday Party? Whether you came or not, we want your feedback. Only 3 required questions and the whole thing would take no longer than 2 minutes. We want to hear from you! Click here to take our survey:

Syracuse's best days are ahead of us. The reasons why were on display Friday night with all our sponsors, vendors, attendees and volunteers who represent what makes Syracuse a great place to live!

Thank you to event sponsors Byrne Hollow Farm, Bluerock Energy, AP Professionals of Syracuse and Visit Syracuse! Thank you to the Landmark Theatre for hosting! Thank you to the more than 80 organizations that filled vendor tables all over the walnut room, on the first floor, on the 2nd floor and stage! Thank you to Mayor Ben Walsh for attending and thank you to Joe Driscoll for performing! Congratulations to Hopeprint and Robert Doucette for receiving the 2018 Believe in Syracuse Awards! Thank you to our volunteers, our Fundraising Committee and to Mery who made this event possible.

Syracuse has its challenges like any community but we have so much to be thankful for. Syracuse is big enough to have jobs and fun things to enjoy and yet small enough to feel like home. Our birthday party promoted what makes Syracuse a great place to live: art, culture, food, local employers, and so many amazing people. Today we are thankful for all of you!

If you have a moment, please take our follow up survey to help inform our events going forward:

Were you a vendor at the event? Click here to give your feedback:





Mayor Walsh RSVP'd to attend our Birthday Party. Will you?

Syracuse's Mayor Ben Walsh has signed up to attend our 5th Birthday Party this Friday night at the Landmark. Our ticket sales are ahead of last years pace when we had 1,200 people so we may sell out this year! That's why we highly recommend you sign up to come today at

Besides Mayor Walsh, we have 90 different organizations booked to attend, filling up more than 80 vendor tables with local food, beverages, art, non-profits and employers, all celebrating what makes Syracuse a great place to live.

It's going to be a great party with Joe Driscoll performing live at 6pm and 8pm. With your $10 price of admission, you get free food and beverage samples from the vendors, a piece of birthday cake and a free sample of milk to wash it down with from our sponsor Byrne Hollow Farm. Your $10 goes directly to charity through our community service initiatives. Can you join us this Friday night? Click here and sign up today.


Already a member of Believe in Syracuse? Click here to sign up to attend the party for free.

Coming to the Birthday Party and want to support our winter warmth drive? Bring gloves, scarves, knit hats, new socks, and hand/foot warmers to the Birthday Party and we'll get them to non-profits and homeless people in need.

Momentum is building for this amazing event. We were on TV on CNY Central just this morning, highlighting some of the food vendors that will be there this Friday night. This event is an amazing assembly of all the people and local businesses and organizations that make Syracuse a great place to live. Click here and sign up to come today.


Congrats to our 2018 Believe in Syracuse Award Recipients Bob Doucette and Hopeprint! Hopeprint does amazing work in the community supporting Refugees with hospitality, mentorship and through collaboration. Bob Doucette is a developer initially known for taking a risk, years ago by starting to revitalize Armory Square. Recently he helped produce the Syracuse Rising video that encapsulates so much of what Believe in Syracuse is all about. Bob and Hopeprint truly help make Syracuse a great place to live.



Syracuse's best days are ahead of us and together we'll make that future even greater. To sign up to join us this Friday night at the Landmark, click here or visit the URL below.


Thank you!

You spoke, we listened. The results of our survey inside.

More than 700 of you responded to our community engagement survey and our board and I have listened. We crunched the numbers, read your comments, and analyzed your feedback. Thank you so much for participating in our survey! It will make us smarter and stronger going forward.

Here is a summary of some of what you told us:

  --  You view Syracuse somewhat positively and our social media campaigns have made you feel more positive.

  --  You most enjoy hearing from us about fun things to do and about progress happening in Syracuse.

  --  The greatest number of respondents said they strongly approve of Believe in Syracuse and that our communication is good.

  --  More than 45% of you said you were unsure if Believe in Syracuse is making a difference in the community.

  --  Overall you said you were aware of our mission: to promote positive perceptions and improve the quality of life in Syracuse

Perhaps the most loud and clear message we received was from your responses to the last question in this survey. When asked "What activities would you like to see Believe in Syracuse focus most on in 2018?" there seemed to be a theme and widespread agreement. Here are the four most popular responses out of 15 choices, ranked from #1 to #4:

  1. Promote Syracuse as a great place to live
  2. Retain and attract talented people to Syracuse
  3. Promote Syracuse Neighborhoods
  4. Create awareness of employment opportunities here

Clearly, you want us to promote what makes Syracuse a great place to live. This is something we already do, but going forward we're going to seek new and improved ways to promote neighborhoods and employment opportunities with the goal of retaining and attracting people who want to live in our great city.

Going forward in 2018, our Arts and Community Service programming will continue to grow. Art can inspire and improve our community. There's absolutely nothing that makes me believe in Syracuse more than witnessing people volunteer, get books to kids and winter clothing to the homeless. These are things we're doing in significant ways and 45% of you seem to be unaware, so we'll have to work on that.

What can clarify for folks our role in improving the community is a focus on and a creation of a long-term plan to retain and attract people to Syracuse. Based on your feedback, that is something I am committed to, and always have been since Believe in Syracuse began.

Every comment and every response was listened to and read so we have lots of constructive feedback on ways we can do better and we will. In the meantime, please join us January 26th at our Birthday Bash at the Landmark. Click here to RSVP:

Thank you for your feedback and continued support. The full survey data is below. 

Q1. How positively do you view the Greater Syracuse Community?

Answer Choices Responses  
Very positively 29.63% 208  
Somewhat positively 51.71% 363  
Neutral 9.69% 68  
Somewhat negatively 8.26% 58  
Very negatively 0.71% 5  
  Answered 702  
  Skipped 0  

Q2. How has Believe in Syracuse's social media content made you feel about Greater Syracuse?

Answer Choices Responses  
Feel much more positive about Syracuse 10.97% 77  
Feel more positive about Syracuse 33.62% 236  
Feel slightly more positive about Syracuse 26.07% 183  
No change 19.66% 138  
Feel less positively about Syracuse 1.14% 8  
I have not been following Believe in Syracuse on Social Media 8.55% 60  
  Answered 702  
  Skipped 0  

Q3. What types of information do you enjoy receiving from Believe in Syracuse?

Answer Choices Responses  
Fun things to do in Greater Syracuse 73.99% 512  
Showing the positive aspects of Greater Syracuse 66.47% 460  
Highlighting progress happening in Greater Syracuse 72.40% 501  
Believe in Syracuse Events 54.19% 375  
Local charitable initiatives 45.52% 315  
Local Art 43.93% 304  
Opportunities to get involved in the community 56.36% 390  
New Local Restaurants, Breweries, and Wineries 67.77% 469  
New locally owned businesses 62.57% 433  
Other (please specify) 5.64% 39  
  Answered 692  
  Skipped 10  
Other - Written responses categorized
Getting people involved 3 Highlight people 3
Government/politics 3 Keep up good work 3
Have not received much 6 Public services 2
Highlight other orgs 2 Reduce Poverty 4
Want more communication 1 Too much boosterism 2
Young people 2 Too much info in society 2

Q4. How would you rate the Believe in Syracuse communication you receive?

Answer Choices Responses  
Excellent 16.10% 113  
Good 52.85% 371  
Fair 19.09% 134  
Poor 2.14% 15  
I do not receive such communication 9.83% 69  
Comments / Feedback   26  
  Answered 702  
  Skipped 0  
Other - Written responses categorized
Improve committee communication 3 New person 1
Improvement Suggestion 5 Not enough 4
Love it 1 Too busy to read it 2
Too much 6    
Too much (breakdown) - 5 from email list subscribers, 1 from a member, zero from social media followers

Q5. Do you approve of Believe in Syracuse?

Answer Choices Responses  
Strongly approve 44.51% 312  
Approve 42.80% 300  
No opinion 10.70% 75  
Disapprove 1.57% 11  
Strongly disapprove 0.43% 3  
  Answered 701  
  Skipped 1  

Q6. How much does Believe in Syracuse make a difference improving our community?

Answer Choices Responses  
A lot 24.79% 174  
A little 27.21% 191  
Not sure 45.73% 321  
Not at all 2.28% 16  
  Answered 702  
  Skipped 0  

Q7. Our mission is to promote positive perceptions and improve the quality of life in the Greater Syracuse Area. How aware of this were you?

Answer Choices Responses  
I was very aware 49.72% 349  
I was somewhat aware 41.03% 288  
I was not aware of your mission at all 9.26% 65  
  Answered 702  
  Skipped 0  

Q8. What activities would you like to see Believe in Syracuse focus most on in 2018?

Answer Choices Responses  
Supporting the Arts 30.91% 217  
Increase awareness and excitement about Syracuse Arts and Cultural activities 48.72% 342  
Promote Syracuse a great place to live 65.10% 457  
Create awareness of employment opportunities here 56.13% 394  
Celebrating Syracuse 52.85% 371  
Civic Engagement 45.30% 318  
Voter registration 30.34% 213  
Countering local cynicism 45.87% 322  
Community Service 43.73% 307  
Increasing access to books in our neighborhoods 19.23% 135  
Creating art to inspire local pride 28.49% 200  
Providing essential goods to the less fortunate 34.62% 243  
Promote Syracuse Neighborhoods 57.12% 401  
Retain and attract talented people to Syracuse 59.54% 418  
Increase awareness and excitement about Syracuse Sports & Nature Activities 29.20% 205  
Other (please specify) 9.26% 65  
  Answered 702  
  Skipped 0  
Other - Written responses categorized
All are important 6 Jobs 3
Collaborate with other Organizations 3 Politics/Government 2
Crime, Safety, Police 7 Poverty 7
Education 5 Promote Activities 3
Focus more narrowly 2 Promote to rest of USA 2
Health 3 Young families 2
Inspire Optimism 4 Youth 6

P.S. - our 5th Birthday Party is an amazing assembly of people and organizations that make Syracuse a great place to live. It will include locally owned food vendors, artists, non-profits, neighborhood groups and some major employers. The event is next Friday night and to be sure you can get in you should RSVP. Click here:


John DeSantis
Believe in Syracuse