When Russell decided almost 6 years ago that he wanted to find a way to thank the people of western New York for their support and friendship over the last 60 years- he himself could never have imagined the impact one person could make. From his beautiful Patriots and Hero’s Memorial Park on Transit Road to a whole new fleet of 10 medical transport vans for WNY Veterans and literally everything in between, Russ Salvatore is the “Go to Guy” to get things done.
How it Started…
It all started with a “turning lemons to lemonade story.” An unfortunate slip on a cold and icy buffalo morning landed Russell in a hospital room at ECMC. The diagnosis was a shattered ankle. Surgeries including metal screws and the painful albeit short rehabilitation followed, but he never talked about the injury. Instead he could not shake the concept that hospitals charge their patients to turn on the TV. “Who needs the television more than people stuck in the hospital” -remarked Russell
Not soon after he became the most feared man in the hospital television Pay-Per-View business, at least to the companies that were charging the patients. One by one he began meeting hospital presidents and administrators and tearing up TV contracts and replacing outdated televisions with larger more affective sets all across Western New York. With a recent commitment to finish the Kaleida Portfolio he has now replaced the televisions in 10 Western New York hospitals, providing over 4000 new televisions to the rooms and emergency rooms while providing free TV to one million patients a year.
The community’s appreciation to Russell’s initial gift to each ECMC was so strong that he basically turned his sights to the Western New York community as a whole. Russell began listening to the needs around town and began helping so to leave his mark on the city he loves.
The UB Medical Campus
The UB Medical Campus was under construction and funding fell short from the original plans to create a world class learning campus. They were forced to turn to the private sector for help. Russell was one of the founding members of the Circle of Visionaries, a group of Buffalo backers sought after to restore the projects road to greatness. With Russell on board money came flowing in, allowing UB to now stand tall as one of the supporting pillars within our Medical Campus -promising to train the best doctors in the world right here in Buffalo New York!
Russel J. Salvatore Hospitality House.
Kevin Guest House, a hospitality house which has received worldwide accolades for their efforts in providing lodging and support for the families of hospital patients was embarking on a new capital campaign. They approached Russell and shared how they had purchased a building adjacent to their campus and needed help renovating it. Their goal was to create a special place not only for the families visiting but also for Bone Marrow Transplant patients who require a very unique environment to rehabilitate while still under doctors care. Russell visited the campus and made a $500,000 commitment to get the project rolling. But learning of their mission he wanted to do more. He lined up contractors and he himself could be found working downtown as he took on the task of overseeing the exterior renovation in land cleanup. In short order the neighbors witnessed overgrown trees removed on a Saturday morning, sidewalks were poured for safety the next day and a landscaping job that completed a weekend transformation ofthe abandoned property.
Lancaster Depew Boys & Girls Club.
All-too-familiar of what the destruction and uncertainty a fire has on a building Russell was there to step in after a fire caused a total loss to the famed club in Depew. Once the smoldering settled down, the directors of the club needed to have the financing from a willing bank to bridge the gap left from an insurance policy that was never updated and drastically lacked the coverage needed to rebuild. The bank was reluctant to lend the money needed as the club could not show the ability to pay back such a large loan. Russell agreed to guarantee the repayment of the loan by committing $600,000 to the club to be used to pay back the monthly mortgage payments to the bank. The new club opened its doors a year later to a line of local children that circled the building waiting to utilize the club.
Heritage Centers of Learning.
The town of Cheektowaga gifted an old school building to the heritage foundation to take care of students with special needs from 8 Western New York counties that their local school districts could not service. The school however built 70 years ago was not assessable to the students it served. On a visit one morning Russell witnessed two bus drivers and an aid struggling in the rain to get a student in a wheelchair through a set of heavy doors. This is all it took for Russ to redesign all three main entrances, adding automatic assessable doors. He followed it with an addition that included a community room for parents and friends to wait for the students. He even resealed their parking lot and landscaped the entire front of the school on Labor Day weekend so that the school would look brand new for the returning students from summer vacation. That first day of school Russell greeted every student as they got off of their busses & welcomed them to their new school.
The Ball Parks.
Russell was approached by the town of Lancaster Youth Baseball Association for help with an indoor field which would allow the town’s teams to compete with the best and provide the town with a year-round facility for baseball. With the help of some other local businesses, in particular Basil Chevy, thousands of kids improved their game.
The Matthew McCarthy League of Amherst was tasked with renovating a dilapidated batting house at their Wehrle Drive facility. Russell was invited for a tour and asked if he would pay the $5000 to complete the project. Russell remarked that the facility needed more than just a roof, fresh paint and new doors otherwise you’d be going through this same problem in two years. He floored the committee when he committed $150,000 to tear down the existing structure, replacing it with a double faced block cement building and steel roof, improved the other diamonds, funded the league fees for those residents who could not afford to play and he also arranged for a yearly scholarship to a deserving league member from high school.
The Miracle League of Western New York.
This league provided the opportunity for special needs children to enjoy our nations past time –Baseball! A special field was built in Veterans Park in Grand Island and needed funding to resurface the special rubber turf field that was customized for wheelchair use. Russell committed $200,000 for the league to replace the turf, fund league fees for those unable to afford to play & to create a fund to help league members with some personal expenses that come from caring for a child of special needs. This includes ramps, wheelchairs etc.
This article covers only a few of the efforts Russ has contributed. This year alone he also built the Niagara University Student Commons, Gospa House for Woman and Children,
The Buffalo State Demonstration Kitchen and he still works hard seven nights a week in his restaurant to make sure he can continue giving back until he serves his last dinner.