by Annette Pinder
Chandra Redfern, MS is Chief Executive Officer of Buffalo Federation of Neighborhood Centers (BFNC), a community service agency that has been serving the community for over 125 years.
Chandra was raised in Niagara Falls by a mother who instilled in her a drive to succeed. “My mom was 15 when I was born. She married my dad, graduated high school, and later worked at a bank. My father was employed at a local chemical plant. My brother was born when I was 7, and my parents separated when I was 10. With mom working, I was a latchkey kid, caring for my brother.” When Chandra entered college, her mother remarried. “My mother was a giving lady who always reminded us to remember those worse off than we were. But life was rough for my mom, and she died at 57 from a heart attack. I will always remember her as loving, wise, and encouraging. She raised us to be independent and have good values.”
Although Chandra experienced obstacles as a single-parent child, she was one of few Black kids in her high school honors class. This is when she met the first educator who significantly impacted her life. “My high school English teacher likely never knew the influence she had on me.” Chandra earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and criminal justice, and a master’s degree in counseling from Canisius College. A constant cheerleader, Chandra’s mother repeatedly told her children they could accomplish anything if they put their minds to it. “I recall fondly that when I earned my college degrees, it was as if she was graduating too!”
Chandra also reflects on her mother’s kind and caring nature. “She would feed people in need, and purchase Christmas gifts for those who were struggling. She was the kind of person who never spoke poorly about people, no matter their situation.” Chandra’s grandma, who recently passed, was a registered nurse and her second mom. “My grandma taught us that if you have your education, no one can take it away from you. No matter how far we went in school, she would encourage my brother, sister, and me to keep going.”
“Life has a way of placing an exclamation mark on our thoughts and actions as we grow,” stated Chandra. “I was always interested in how the mind works. My father struggled with addiction and alcoholism, and I witnessed family members struggle with mental illness. Wanting to help, I decided to study psychology.”
Chandra’s first job in human services was at a People Inc. group home. She then worked at a domestic violence shelter, and later at Restoration Society. It was there that she found her niche working in the mental health field. When hired as a case manager for Buffalo Federation of Neighborhood Centers, she was amazed. “For the first time, I was interviewed by people of color in leadership, and a majority of the people I worked with looked like me.” Thereafter she began working with teen parents. “Because both my mom and grandma were teen parents, I wanted to assist young parents with setting positive goals. I cannot imagine being a young person in that situation now.”
Chandra advanced, and served in various leadership positions within the agency. As Director of Residential Services, I was given the opportunity to serve as project lead for the Westminster Development project. Leadership then elevated me to COO, and in 2021 I was appointed by the Board of Directors as CE0. Often, people just need to know that others believe in them.”
The desire to uplift single parents led Chandra to create a holiday event for single-parent families. BFNC is hosting BFNC’s annual Brunch with Santa on December 2. Never letting go of growing up with a single mom, Chandra is proud to welcome children and families for a morning of encouragement and joy. “It is our gift to single parent families, who enjoy a delicious meal, activities, and receive gifts from Santa.”
Chandra is married to a pastor, and is mother to their 9-year-old daughter. “Our daughter Kennedy is amazing. She is highly creative, loves art, and takes tap, ballet, and jazz.” Reflecting upon her own life lessons, Chandra says, “It takes a village, and I’m living proof of that. It is the mentors in my life that helped reinforce the knowledge that I could accomplish anything I wanted.”
Starting January 27, BFNC will provide free tax preparation services to those who qualify. Learn more about BFNC’s services and events at www.bfnc.org or call 716-856-0363.