Meet the Team: Bernarda Arias connects Roswell Park to the community

Bernarda Arias

Bernarda Arias’s whole adult life has been devoted to serving others in her adopted hometown of Buffalo, NY, and across Western New York.

Born in the Dominican Republic, in a community where money was tight and everyone took care of each other, Arias and her family moved to New York City when she was a young girl. She moved to Buffalo to attend Buffalo State University, becoming the first person in her family to graduate from college.

While studying at Buff State, she pledged the Señoritas Latinas Unidas sorority. “Literacy and community service were a huge component in the sorority and there was a certain expectation that when you joined, you were to give back,” she says. Some 25 years later, Bernarda is still involved with her sorority, and she takes great pride in knowing each and every woman who has joined since she became a member. 

Bernarda now serves as one of the four directors in Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Community Outreach and Engagement team and is chair of the hospital’s Community Alliance to Reach, Empower and Sustain (CARES) Program. “My job is to support our communities on behalf of Roswell Park and serve not just as an ambassador but a bridge in our community and to be of service when we are needed,” she says. “In this role, I get to develop new partnerships while fostering the great ones that we already have in place.”

Taking care of her adopted hometown

While Buffalo has not always been her home, Bernarda has spent her professional life building strong relationships, first through her sorority and now at Roswell Park. She can be found at every fundraising and donation drive sponsored by the hospital, working tirelessly to help provide aid and support to people throughout the City of Good Neighbors. When parade season comes in the spring and summer, she can often be found driving Roswell Park’s float through crowded, celebratory streets, smiling brightly. 

Community outreach “means everything to me,” she says. “I love to help people, especially when that help is going to elevate their life. I know there is a lot of need in the community and that we might not be able to help everyone, but I live by this quote: ‘Helping one person might not change the world, but what matters most is that you can change the world for that one person.’”

In her position at Roswell Park, she’s making those differences one person at a time, every day. “What I love most about my job is the opportunity to improve the lives of individuals and communities,” Bernarda says. “I also get to meet other leaders doing amazing work and we get to connect on different things that we can do together to help others. I am so grateful to work for an organization that believes in helping others, which believes in being a good neighbor and is committed to growing our community.”

Leadership comes from service

Dedication to helping others doesn’t just start with people going through cancer treatment, she says. “If everyone really knew all that goes on at Roswell Park, they would not believe it! Through the CARES Program we have assisted so many not-for-profit organizations with resources and education to continue the great work they are doing in their individual communities, whether through education, sponsoring an event, food and toy drives, etc. Roswell Park is always there.

“Now we have opened a new Community Outreach and Engagement Center at 907 Michigan Avenue where we house our community outreach teams and have a community multipurpose room to host workshops, classes, trainings, meetings and events that provide community members with opportunities to connect, lead and promote health and wellness. This latest project can speak for itself as to how committed Roswell Park is as an organization to being there for our communities.” 

Bernarda says her life’s philosophy is “To be a leader, you must become a servant,” and she continues to stay true to that principle in her dedication to outreach. 

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