I first met Nischelle Buffalow on a hot day in the summer of 2016. She was hosting what she calls a “community feeding” at a church in Chesapeake, Virginia, providing breakfast and lunch for neighborhood kids, some of whom don’t get many balanced meals during the summer, when schools are closed.
I took with me a very modest donation, enough to make breakfast for 4 to 6 people. Nischelle routinely feeds many times that number during her summer feeding program.In addition to the summer feeding program, Nischelle hosts senior lunches throughout the year, as well as three big annual events: a back-to-school carnival and barbecue, a community Thanksgiving dinner, and her Warm and Fuzzy Christmas event.
Nischelle and her group of volunteers rely entirely on donations. In addition to raising money to fund her events, she asks for donations of school supplies, coats and socks, and food.
She calls her organization the Buffalow Friends & Family Community, and they’ve been hosting these events since 2010, when Nischelle organized a Thanksgiving dinner for a couple dozen people. It has now grown to an event that draws hundreds. She even provides a delivery service for people who are house-bound or otherwise unable to attend the event, including homeless centers. As she told The Virginian-Pilot, “We don’t want anyone left without a home-cooked meal for Thanksgiving.”Nischelle has been honored by the local Norfolk, Virginia, CBS affiliate, WTKR – NewsChannel 3, with their People Take Action award, and the South Norfolk section of Chesapeake recognized her hard work a few years ago by making her the Grand Marshall of their annual 4th of July parade. This month, the ACHI Women Supporting Women Association named Buffalow Family and Friends Community Days as their Nonprofit of the Month.
Nischelle does much of the cooking for these events herself, and in 2016, the community rallied to raise money to purchase a double oven and a storage shed, both badly needed to help support the services her organization provides.
As Margaret Murray wrote in The Virginian-Pilot in 2016, “Thanksgiving Day at Nischelle Buffalow’s house in Chesapeake is a sight to behold,” with an assembly line forming in Nischelle’s kitchen to open cans, cut cakes, and man the turkey fryer.
Nischelle says she noticed that some of the children who attended her Thanksgiving event didn’t have warm coats, so she added a coat drive and began collecting blankets and socks to hand out.
Giving back is something Nischelle was raised to do. Her grandparents were known for taking neighborhood kids to the beach and hosting backyard cookouts for the neighborhood. Her grandmother would call kids in off the street, encouraging them to get something to eat.Nischelle draws support from throughout the City of Chesapeake, and the crowd at her events is diverse — black, white, young, and old. Volunteers include law enforcement, local companies, and city officials. The local public radio station, WHRO, participates in her back-to-school events, along with corporate sponsors such as Colgate, who provides free oral health screenings in their mobile dental van.
Nischelle’s efforts continue to grow. In 2017, their 8th year of hosting an annual Thanksgiving dinner for the community, the group fed about 500 people at two locations, in addition to delivering meals. The goal, she says, is to provide people a place where they feel cared for and can get a good meal. They had barely finished cleaning up after their Thanksgiving event before work began on their next event, Warm and Fuzzy Christmas, providing hot meals, a visit with Santa, and toys for neighborhood children.Throughout this year, The Beach Memo will be spotlighting people who are making a difference in the lives of others. As Nischelle likes to say, she and others who give back are ordinary people working to make a difference in the lives of others.
Please visit Nischelle’s website to learn more about the Buffalow Friends & Family Community and how you can help.