Our Donor and Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon has been cancelled due to the current guidelines and restrictions put in place during the COVID-19 outbreak. We are happy to virtually thank all of our generous volunteers and donors, and honor the following individuals:

Pro Bono Volunteer of the Year

This award is given to an individual who shows a commitment to pro bono volunteer opportunities throughout the year. The volunteer exhibits a dedication to the mission of the Center for Elder Law & Justice through his or her time and effort, making a clear impact on the number of clients that CELJ is able to serve.

Steven Bengartphoto of Steven Bengart

Steve has been a dedicated member of our Board of Directors since 2009, and currently serves as vice president of the Board. In addition to this service, he also consistently volunteers his time as a pro bono attorney.

Steve has been a partner in the Law Office of Bengart & DeMarco, LLP for 26 years, and has also spent the last 17 years as first the Town Attorney/Prosecutor and then Deputy Town Attorney/Prosecutor for the Town of Clarence. Concentrating much of his practice in the areas of transactional law and representation of municipalities throughout Western New York, Steve earned his Bachelor’s from SUNY Geneseo, and his JD from California Western School of Law.

Steve is also a member of the Bar Association of Erie County, and represents the New York State Bar Association as the General Practice Section’s 8th District Representative. He regularly lectures throughout the area and serves as an instructor for the Erie County Police Academy.

Steve serves as President of the Prosecutor’s Association of Western New York, and is the immediate past-president of Amherst Youth Hockey. He is currently Temple Attorney for Temple Beth Tzedek, and an active hockey coach. Steve wanted to be sure that we mentioned his 29 year marriage to Mary. They have three children – two in Medical School, and one beginning Law School in the fall. While Steve is being honored today, it is both Mary and Steve who strongly believe in the mission of the Center for Elder Law & Justice, and proudly donate to its cause.

Terrie Benson Murray

Terrie’s commitment to the Help Center has been essentphoto of Terrie ial to our work. Her many hours of dedicated support to unpresented individuals in Erie County has proved critical to the continued operation of the Center, and inspires volunteers and staff alike.

Terrie is a partner at Cohen & Lombardo, and head of the firm’s Trusts, Estates, and Elderlaw Practice. Formerly with the UAW Legal Services Plan, she provided legal representation to hundreds of Western New York autoworkers. Terrie also has extensive experience in the areas of real estate, adoptions, Fair Debt Collection Practices Act litigation in federal court, matrimonial and family practice, and civil litigation.

Terrie is a graduate of the SUNY Fredonia and the SUNY Buffalo School of Law; and is a member of the Erie County Bar Association and the New York State Bar Association. Terrie is currently serving as the President of the Board of Directors of the Family Justice Center of Buffalo and Erie County. She is the former Chair of the Board of the Southtowns Family Center, and the founding member and officer of PEO Chapter CM, a women’s organization dedicated to assisting women who wish to pursue higher education. Terrie is an active member of her church and participates in sanctuary and handbell choir.

Barbara Schaus

Barbara’s dedication as a volunteer attorney has been vital to running the Help Center at Erie County Surrogate’s Court, the creation of which was driven by the needs of hundreds of unrepresented litigants attempting to navigate the Surrogate’s Court without the assistance of an attorney. Thanks to the many hours of pro bono work provided by Barphoto of Barbarab, these individuals are given much-needed support and guidance.

Barb is a partner in the fourth generation family law firm of Schaus & Schaus LLP, and practices in the area of wills, trusts, and estate administration, residential and commercial real estate, and business formation. She also handles Medicaid planning, landlord and tenant law, divorces, and family law matters. She graduated from Canisius College, and the SUNY Buffalo School of Law, and is a member of the Erie County Bar Association and is also licensed in the state of Florida.

A senior attorney for the New York State Board of Law Examiner, Barb has been involved in bar exam content, administration, and grading for over 20 years. In 1997, she and her law firm were awarded the Pro Bono Award by the Erie County Bar Association Volunteer Lawyer’s Project.

The Luminary Award

This award is given to a philanthropic individual who shows a strong devotion to the mission of the Center for Elder Law & Justice through his or her generosity and actions. The individual should be a leader in the community, or in his/her field, and show a true dedication to the work of CELJ.

Cynthia Vance photo of Cynthia

Cynthia has served on the Board of Directors for the Center for Elder Law & Justice since 2011, and is acting Board President, and a member of our leadership giving society. Her experience in the field of financial management is invaluable, and we can always rely on Cynthia for her advice, and advocacy on behalf of our agency.

Cynthia began her career in financial services in 1983, and earned her Certified Financial Planner certification 1988. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the College of Business at Michigan State University, an MBA from Xavier University, and a JD from the State University of New York at Buffalo School of Law. She has prior work experience practicing in the area of tax-exempt bond financing and commercial transactional work, but has spent the bulk of her career in financial planning. She is founding partner and manager of Jensen, Marks, Langer & Vance, LLC; and founding partner and CEO of Sterling Investment Counsel, LLC, which is now considered to be one of the premiere independent money management firms in Western New York. Cynthia also has a large client-based practice where she uses her 35 years of experience to provide her clients with financial advice.

Cynthia’s involvement in the community is impressive: she is currently a member of the Board of Trustees at Canisius College, the Center for Elder Law & Justice, Nichols School, WNED/WBFO, The Buffalo Club, and a member of the Endowment Committee for Explore & More, and a member of the Junior League of Buffalo. She has received the Power 125 and Women of Influence Awards from Buffalo Business First; the Women of Distinction Award from the Girl Scouts of Western New York; the Board Volunteer Award from the Champions for Justice, and the Sustainer Council Award from the Junior League of Buffalo.

Margaret and Ronald Talboysphoto of the Talboys

Margaret and Ron are both Western New York natives, and recently celebrated their 57th wedding anniversary. They have a son Gary, who lives in Clarence Center, a son Peter, in Springfield, Missouri, and a grandson Timothy, who recently moved to Colorado Springs.

Ron and Margaret first became involved with the Center for Elder Law & Justice when CEO Karen Nicolson was working as a law student, assigned to her first case. Margaret’s mother needed nursing home care at the age of 73, and was in Schoelkopf Nursing Home in Kenmore. This was when our paths first crossed, as they enlisted our help with their mother’s case. Since then, the couple has made consistent and loyal contributions, often sending kind words of support. When looking at the history of our agency, their long-term commitment truly stands out. They have been investing in us for nearly 30 years, and are now members of our Circle of Justice leadership giving society.

It’s no surprise that the couple should show such philanthropic dedication. The Talboys founded Habitat for Humanity Buffalo in 1985, which is now one of the top Habitat affiliates in the United States. Ron eventually retired from a long career in mechanical engineering at General Motors, and the couple dedicated all of their time to the fledgling nonprofit, building a strong foundation for years to come. While Ron served as President, Margaret was acting Secretary and Public Relations Director, handling the day-to-day work of marketing and development, and working with the clients. During their tenure, the organization developed a partnership with UB’s School of Architecture and Planning, involving students with nearly all of the new builds in the Buffalo area. Ron continues to serve the community, having installed some 300 furnaces along the way for low-income families. He is the 2010 recipient of the Leadership Buffalo Service Award.

As Margaret stated, their journey “continues as [they] close in on the beginning elder years and look back at all we have learned and continue to learn.” Margaret currently serves as lay chaplain at Millard Fillmore Suburban Hospital and Greenfield Nursing Facility. She wrote that she considered CELJ a “partner” in their journey, having given them confidence and direction along the way. The couple learned more about elder care issues when both Ron’s mother, and then Margaret’s father moved into different assisted living facilities. They now consider themselves a resource for others who are working through similar life changes.