BOARD of DIRECTORS
President - Carol Speser
Treasurer - Paula Diegelman
Secretary - James Hart
Shirley Burns honed her skill sets as a post high school principal and special education classroom teacher in Oregon. She operates under a philosophy of nurturing the human spirit while working from a process standpoint, viewing the whole picture from beginning to end.
Shirley is grounded in a balanced perspective and is passionate for the mission of RSVP-WNY, a nonprofit.
Currently, as the President of RSVP-WNY, Shirley oversees the six-person Board of Directors and governs the day-to-day operations of the nonprofit. She led the development of the organization's bylaws, PRIDE 2019, RSVP-WNY 2019 first year anniversary dinner and numerous other events.
Shirley continues her volunteerism through the local Tai Chi center as a set leader, GLYS (Gay & Lesbian Youth Services of WNY), GObike Buffalo and Buffalo Niagara Water Keepers.
Previously, in Oregon, Shirley coordinated several county-wide Transition Fairs for adults with disabilities ages 18-21 through a coordination with community agencies and five school districts. These fairs focused on employment, housing, and leisure. In addition, she was the lead presenter at the state-wide Transition Conference for adults with disabilities aged 18-21.
Shirley holds a BS in Physical Education from Plymouth State University, an MS in Therapeutic Recreation and Special Education, and an Educational Administration endorsement.
Carol Speser, President
Carol Speser is a retired librarian, chaplain, and longtime local LGBTQ community organizer.
She has been a part of many firsts in WNY. Among them, Carol organized Buffalo's first public outdoor Pride celebration, founded Stonewall Democrats of WNY, was appointed first openly gay Commissioner for the City of Buffalo, and together with Mayor Paul Dyster of Niagara Falls, she officiated for the wedding
of the first same-sex couple to legally marry in the state of New York. She is a co-founder of RSVP-WNY.
Paula Diegelman, Treasurer
Paula Diegelman is a native Buffalonian who resides in Riverside with her long-time partner in life and sweetheart, Jimmy Hart.
Her career spanned thirty-eight years working as a Research Associate at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center. She enjoys woodworking, camping, kayaking, hiking, gardening, fixing things and of course spending time with her beloved RSVP-WNY friends whom she calls family.
For the Buffalo Pride Parade of 2019, RSVP-WNY was extremely fortunate to have the use of Kathy Colletti’s flatbed for their very first Pride float. Paula put her woodworking skills to good use designing and building a system of side rails and gates for the safety of those riding the float. Additionally, she and Danton Coulson worked splendidly together adapting and decorating a photo booth for RSVP’s first Anniversary Dinner in 2019. She is a founding member of RSVP-WNY and currently sits on the Board of Directors where she enjoys bantering about ideas for the betterment of RSVP-WNY.
Jimmy Hart, Secretary
Jimmy is one of the four original founders of Rainbow Seniors Visible & Proud.
He was in complete agreement with Carol Speser’s conclusion that WNY LGBTQ Seniors needed to create an autonomous organization of, by, and for Seniors. As the generation that led the way out of the closet and through the horror of AIDS in the 1980’s, it made no sense to give others the power to control our destiny.
Jimmy’s long career as a National Cancer Institute trained and certified cancer information specialist (working at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center) provided a wealth of experience helping people struggling to confront their own or a loved one’s suspicion or diagnosis of cancer by providing accurate, up-to-date information about the latest advances in the field and where and how to find their best options for treatment. Active listening, empathy, and the ability to communicate complex information effectively in plain language are among the skills he has adapted for his role at RSVP-WNY. He also contributed to the design of the Cancer Information Program’s section of the Roswell Park website, wrote an article for the international smoking cessation magazine, STOP!, and narrated an audio smoking cessation program for New York State.
Jimmy sits on the Erie County (NY) Senior Advisory Board and is a trained AARP Senior Volunteer. He has worked on the RSVP-WNY calendar, newsletter, website, and is one of the moderators for its Facebook pages. He also serves as secretary for the board. He recognizes the vital role RSVP-WNY exists to fill and believes his involvement in this organization is the most important work he has ever undertaken.
Being on the RSVP-WNY board has made me realize that I do have ideas to share. I get along with all members of RSVP-WNY. In a group like this it is important to have an open mind, helping out at times is helpful also. In our group, I have learned to take on criticism and learn from it. I watch and learn to communicate the right way, not to be hurtful. I actually enjoy the members I’ve met.
For some time, I was closed in; even now with COVID-19 I tend to want to be alone. I have made some friends here and I realize not everyone will have time to be a close friend. I want to be here to help out, to engage in activities.
I worked in a factory and ran various machines for 25+ years, so you see I learned a lot about myself and it was inside me to treat others respectfully. I liked my job.
Danton comes to the board by way of his natural artistic instincts. Although he lacks office skills, he can offer practical advice if he feels it is needed. He recognizes the unique abilities that each board member brings to the table and enjoys the RSVP-WNY group dynamic.