2022 was a unique and challenging year in many ways. However, the myriad and diverse regions in Highmark s footprint overcame their trials and made us proud to be part of their story. In our efforts to support their communities and economic resilience, we:
On May 14, 2022, a supermarket on Jefferson Avenue in Buffalo’s East Side became the setting for hate and violence, as 10 lives were lost in a shooting. Out of the tragedy, however, we and the nation saw the perseverance of a community determined to not give in to hate, but to band together for the victims, their families and their neighbors.
Highmark is proud to play a role in the healing, joining great organizations such as Resource Council of WNY, FeedMore WNY, Peacemakers, Buffalo Urban League, Buffalo NAACP and many more. Indeed, since that tragic day, Highmark’s commitment to the neighborhood, team members and partners remains strong as we work toward a more equitable future.
The supermarket was closed immediately following the shooting, shutting off a vital link to food and supplies for the neighborhood, so within 24 hours, Highmark associates came together to collect and distribute food, diapers and baby formula to residents in need. We continue to provide ongoing support today, including financial assistance for mental health services, food security, diaper and formula drives, and volunteer events.
Not the least of these measures are those that honor Katherine “Kat” Massey, a victim of the shooting who worked for Highmark BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York for 40 years before retiring in 2011. She also spoke out against gun violence and was a well-known East Buffalo resident. In her honor, Highmark awarded a grant to We Are Women Warriors, a non-profit she co-founded to aid inner-city residents in socioeconomic, educational, environmental, and criminal justice matters. Additionally, Highmark established a scholarship fund in her name to benefit students from Buffalo Public Schools, recognizing her lifelong contributions to the school district.
“In the wake of the horrific mass shooting in Buffalo on May 14, 2022, the team at Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Western New York immediately mobilized to support our East Buffalo neighbors with donations of food and household necessities. For weeks, dedicated Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Western New York employees volunteered in FeedMore WNY’s warehouse and at our emergency food distribution sites, providing critical resources and spreading hope. Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Western New York’s commitment to the region continues to improve the quality of life in our community”
— Tara A. Ellis, president and CEO of FeedMore WNY
Highmark works with patients, families and communities from a diverse range of cultural backgrounds, and we’re lucky to have employees of different identities at all levels of our organization who offer unique perspectives around healthcare and community needs.
It’s not enough to simply work with diverse populations, though — in order to uphold our promise of being open, inclusive and supportive to all, and welcoming and valuing new ideas, experiences and fresh perspectives, Highmark Bright Blue Futures is committed to continually educating ourselves and our communities about the history and daily experiences of all demographics we work with and serve.
Equipping the Highmark team with knowledge of others’ identities and experiences not only allows us to be better, more compassionate community members, but it also enables us to improve our outreach and services to meet the needs of all Highmark customers and communities more effectively.
As of June 17, 2021, Juneteenth (June 19), the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the end of slavery in the United States, is now an official federal holiday observed in cities and states across the country.
Highmark supports Juneteenth celebrations across our footprint. In 2022, Highmark sponsored several Juneteenth celebrations in Bethlehem, Harrisburg, York, Pittsburgh, Johnstown, and State College, PA. As an official Western Pennsylvania Juneteenth Healthcare Partner, Highmark WholeCare, along with Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield and Allegheny Health Network, provided health screenings and educational opportunities to members on-site at our locations from June 17-19, 2021.
BOLD (Black Organization for Leadership and Development), one of Highmark’s BRGs (Business Resource Groups) that is supported by the Enterprise Equitable Health Institute (EEHI) Center for Health and Racial Equity, has played a significant role in Highmark’s support of a diverse and inclusive workforce, and of its celebration of holidays like Juneteenth, which uphold those values. Through its empowerment of Black employees in achieving great business results for the workplace, marketplace and community, and its activities and leadership perspective, BOLD continues to strengthen Highmark’s environment and celebration of diversity within the organization and throughout the community. Highmark’s other BRGs, Abilities, EAST BRG (Exploring Asian Societies and Traditions), Next!, PRIDE BRG (People Respecting Inclusion Diversity & Equity), SALUD BRG (Strengthening Awareness of Latino culture Using and understanding Diversity, Latino/Hispanic), V.E.T.S. BRG (Voices of Employees That have Served; Military/Veterans) and Women of Highmark BRG served as allies to BOLD in these efforts because Juneteenth celebrates all of us.
In 2022, Highmark began a day of celebrations with a parade of 100 Highmark employees led by BOLD, honoring the African American Emancipation Day and embracing the holiday as a time for reflection, improvement, action and change.
In addition, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield Delaware co-sponsored the Delaware Juneteenth Freedom Festival on June 20 at Tubman Garret Park. Throughout Buffalo, Niagara Falls and Schenectady, New York, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of Western and Northeastern NY contributed to several regional Juneteenth programs, including “Juneteenth of Buffalo: We Are Black History…Since 1976” at Martin Luther King, Jr. Park, Juneteenth Scholarship Banquet in Niagara Falls, and Juneteenth at Schenectady Central Park.
Highmark was able to introduce more programming in 2022 to shine a light on the diverse identities, stories and lives of our membership and employees spanning across each of the regions we serve, and we look forward to creating even more opportunities to celebrate Juneteenth and other culturally significant holidays this year and in future years.
Research findings from The World Health Organization demonstrate the powerful, undeniable health benefits of exposure to arts and cultural activities. Not only can art help us to emotionally navigate the challenges that come with illnesses or injuries, but it can also help us process difficult emotions in times of crisis, communicate valuable messages across cultural and political divides, and help certain populations process and learn from their individual and collective experiences to improve their overall wellbeing.
The arts and cultural experiences Highmark invests in provide more than just museum trips and plays for communities they encourage social and emotional wellbeing; build human connection, curiosity and understanding; introduce community members to new voices and perspectives; and help support Pittsburgh’s growing economy.
Just like partnering with children and family organizations helps us strengthen our relationships with the many communities we work with and optimize the care and resources we provide them, supporting vibrant art and cultural activities also empowers the diverse communities we serve, and enhances their quality of life.
Highmark’s support of creative expression and community experiences stretches across our entire footprint, including:
Attractions in Southwest Pennsylvania such as the Carnegie Museums, Highmark Sportsworks at the Carnegie Science Center, Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and Highmark First Night and the Highmark Blues and Heritage Festival.
Highmark has played an active role in ensuring the success of the August Wilson African American Cultural Center’s mission of celebrating the African American journey and highlighting its unique role in the creation of popular culture in America and beyond.
In Central Pennsylvania, Highmark has sponsored the Fulton Festival of New Works’ Stories of Diversity Education Program, a festival showcasing theater from a spectrum of diverse perspectives, including the voices of Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC), LGBTQ+ artists, and individuals with diverse religious and economic backgrounds. It has also supported the Harrisburg Symphony Association, which draws musicians from around the region and country.
Through Highmark’s ongoing support and sponsorship, the Mid-Ohio Valley Multi-Cultural Festival in West Virginia has continued to offer the public a diverse mix of music, dance and food that is reflective of the country’s cultural melting pot.In 2022, as part of its outreach in New York, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield was a presenting sponsor for a performance by the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and Tony and Grammy award winning singer Leslie Odom Junior. Highmark BCBS of Western New York also supported Buffalo’s AKG Art Museum: Art Truck, a mobile center for hands-on art-making that offers activities, classes and workshops for individuals of all ages, backgrounds and ability levels.
Arts and cultural events serve a valued role in bringing people from all walks of life together to understand and appreciate lived experiences outside of their own. For the best interest of its employees, members and the communities it serves, Highmark will continue to invest in the inspiring creativity and expression that is born out of and surrounds each location across its footprint.