As things are starting to open and we're finally able to venture out and get together, KeyBank is excited to continue giving back to communities through the fifth edition of KeyBank Assists. This time, we've formed a team like no other to join us in our ongoing effort to support the small businesses and families that define our neighborhoods.

Who’s helping?

If you’re here then you are helping, and we want to say thank you! Check out our great team of volunteers giving their support. Be sure to visit their social media pages and see how they are supporting the community.

Chris & Kate Johnson Chris and Kate Johnson on Instagram

Syracuse

Our love of excellent food has been a constant in our lives since we began dating, and our free time is spent reading cookbooks, experimenting with recipes and enjoying the amazing food scene here in Central New York! We love trying new restaurants and meeting all the people who make the food scene here so incredible. Our love of food and good wine is our favorite topic of conversation, and people ask us frequently which restaurants we love and where they should go for various occasions. Our inspiration for WeEatCNY is to expand our dinner table and include more people in our food conversations. We look forward to sharing and eating with you!

Supporting the Food Bank of Central New York and The Samaritan Center

Nellie Ackerman-Vellano Nellie Ackerman-Vellano on Instagram

Albany

I write about restaurants and their food. I have casually photographed food since 2010, photographed restaurants’ menus since 2015 and featured many food establishments on Feed Me 518 over the years. I’ve worked in the restaurant industry for over 20 years and even owned a brick-and-mortar tea shop and café. I love the people who work in this industry and appreciate what food venues offer – and how hard it is to follow your dreams as a restaurant owner, which is why I’ve always been drawn to photographing food.

Supporting CC MOVE Food Distribution and the Mechanicville Area Community Service Center, Inc.

Chef Darian Bryan Chef Darian Bryan on Instagram

Buffalo

Recently featured by CBS News’ “The Dish,” it is clear that Chef Darian Bryan is proud of where he comes from. Darian grew up in a small town in Jamaica, working in his mother's cookshop. Darian moved here in 2012 with hopes of becoming a chef. He quickly enrolled in culinary school at Erie Community College. Once finished there, he attended SUNY Buffalo State College in its hospitality management program and worked as the sous-chef for Hutch's Restaurant in Buffalo, New York. He then had the opportunity to help a restaurant open from scratch, which included building the menu, helping with the kitchen layout, and hiring and training employees. He quickly realized he needed to own his own business and started The Plating Society in Buffalo, which features boutique chef services, including fine dining dinner events in any location, catering, and cooking classes. He has had dinners at farms, in yoga studios, and, most recently, on a beach. Darian has won many awards and been featured in several publications. Most recently, he has been recognized as a Buffalo Business First 30 Under 30. His focus is on bringing the chef from the back of the house to the front of the house, as they too are rock stars and deserve to get recognition. He will be opening his Boutique for Chef services in late 2021, which will allow him to be the star of the show.

Supporting FeedMore WNY and Buffalo City Mission

Jeremy Umansky Jeremy Umansky on Instagram

Cleveland

Jeremy Umansky is the chef/owner of Larder: A Curated Delicatessen & Bakery in Cleveland, Ohio. The restaurant was nominated by the James Beard Foundation as the Best New Restaurant in America in 2019, and in 2020 Umansky was nominated as the Best Chef: Great Lakes. He co-authored Koji Alchemy, the first English-language book devoted to the Japanese mold koji, and has been featured in numerous publications like Bon Appétit and Saveur. He was named “The Deli Prophet” by Food & Wine in their March 2019 Makers Issue.

Supporting the Hunger Network of Greater Cleveland and the Hebrew Free Loan Association

Elyse Levkulich Elyse Levkulich on Instagram

Pittsburgh

Elyse Levkulich is the social media and marketing manager at Dickerson Creative Communications located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It is from there where she creates content for local businesses as well as graphic design work for various social media platforms. She designs personalized digital marketing strategies for businesses to meet their brands’ goals.

In her free time, she is also a Pittsburgh-based food influencer and the sole woman behind @Burghnosh where she shares local eating adventures from high-end dining to local hidden gems and everything in between!

Supporting 412 Food Rescue and Magee-Womens Research Institute & Foundation

Jason Sokolowski Jason Sokolowski on Instagram

Rochester

Coming from a French and Polish family, I grew up eating only delicious homemade food. It wasn’t until college that I learned soup also came in a can! My career began in tech. In 2016, I created ROC Foodies as a way for people to broaden their culinary horizons by pushing them beyond their comfort zones to try new things, all while showcasing beautiful photos of the very best eats and drinks in Rochester, New York. The best part? Meeting all of the amazing people in this industry. My ultimate goal? For Rochester to become a foodie destination.

Supporting Foodlink and Rochester Museum & Science Center

Kate Bruckman Kate Bruckman on Instagram

Massachusetts/Connecticut

Kate Bruckman is the creator behind BiteCT (@bitect), a local food and travel blog dedicated to finding incredible food, working with small businesses and all things New England. A self-starter and girl boss, Kate loves meeting other local bloggers, creating fun content and bringing awareness to local businesses in the area.

Supporting the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, Common Ground and Aspire Living and Learning

Irene Wallace Irene Wallace on Instagram

Hudson Valley

I am an influencer in the Hudson Valley of New York. My social media focuses on restaurants and events in New York and Connecticut. I can be found on Instagram at @i_on_the_valley, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ionthevalley, on my website at www.ionthevalley.com, and on TikTok at ionthevalley. Check me out for fun places to go!

Supporting People to People and My Hope's In You Small Animal Rescue Inc.

Mike Gillis Mike Gillis on Instagram

Indiana

Mike Gillis is a food and lifestyle journalist, entrepreneur and philanthropist from Indiana. Based in Indianapolis, Gillis aims to help businesses grow with his digital presence. With over 25,000 people following him across different social media platforms, he is seen as a resource to many, showing people where to eat and what to do. Since the pandemic, he has made a concerted effort to help local businesses across the state of Indiana by giving back, exposing his audience and finding creative ways to help patronize these places.

Supporting the Food Bank of Northern Indiana and Habitat for Humanity of Indiana

Emily Schultz Emily Schultz on Instagram

Maine

Emily Schultz is a full-time social media manager based in Portland, Maine. When she’s not saving new restaurants on Instagram to try, she’s probably in the kitchen cooking a new dish or dreaming of the next place to take a long weekend.

Supporting the Good Shepherd Food Bank and Mano en Mano

What has KeyBank Assists accomplished so far?

  • More than $1 million has gone directly to our communities.
  • 115 community organizations and nonprofits and 225 small businesses have received support.
  • Thousands of families, essential workers and first responders have received gift cards.
  • Thousands of meals have been provided, and we’re still going.

What has KeyBank Assists done in the past?

KeyBank Assists was started to help support our communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our goal was to help ease people’s stress and foster happiness any way we could.

It all started when we teamed up with local athletes to thank essential businesses and first responders, support charities, and surprise people picking up takeout with gift cards.

Then we partnered with Robert Irvine and amazing local chefs to surprise and support thousands of families, essential workers and first responders.

Recently, we enlisted the help of Soledad O’Brien and numerous local athletes to give donations, meals and surprise gifts to small businesses and families.