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Central New York

Central New York, centered on the city of Syracuse, is a community of around 600,000. The growth of the community surged during the heyday of the Erie Canal and the industrialization which ensued. However, subsequent economic downturns and market forces have devastated the industrial economy of Central New York, as they have much of what it known as the “Rust Belt” within which Central New York is located.

Today, Syracuse has an extremely high rate of poverty (see here). The poverty rate among children is especially alarming. According to a recent article, "Syracuse has the highest child poverty in the nation among cities with at least 100,000 people, according to new census data released today. The poverty rate among kids under 18 is 48.4% in Syracuse, ranking the city ahead of places like Detroit and Cleveland." (see here).

One of the bright spots has been Syracuse University, a thriving large institution with an enrollment of over 20,000 students, and its famous athletic programs. The popularity of these athletic programs in Central New York is enormous. For example, since the opening of the Syracuse dome in September 1980, "the Syracuse men's basketball team has led the NCAA in average attendance 16 times and holds the NCAA records for highest total home court attendance in a season - 537,949, (1990), highest average home court attendance in a season - 29,918 (1989), and the largest home court single game attendance - 35,642 (vs. Duke, 2019)." (see here).

AWC seeks to utilize the prestige of the athletes who participate in its programs for the purpose of drawing attention and support for those organizations recognized under 501(c)(3) which could benefit from the publicity associated with the involvement of the athletes. The involvement of these athletes can not only garner potential volunteerism and monetary support from adults, but also benefit local children. The athletes are often regarded as heroes and role models by children, including those who live in the underprivileged areas of Syracuse. By availing the local schools and 501(c)(3) recognized community organizations of the involvement of these athletes, these students can be motivated in a manner that can have a lasting positive influence on their lives.

It's about helping our Syracuse community
Who We Are

Athletes Who Care works with Syracuse University student-athletes to provide meaningful charitable opportunities, which benefit our Central New York Community.

Athletes Who Care, Inc. a 501(c)(3) charity was formed during the summer of 2022 for the purpose of supporting other charities in central New York in their efforts to provide education, combat poverty, provide services for the elderly and those who are suffering, as well as preventing cruelty to children, women and animals.

Athletes Who Care (AWC) identifies and empowers Syracuse University student-athletes who are passionate and committed to charitable work and matches them with charitable organizations in the Syracuse area which can benefit from their services. These athletes use their recognition and leadership to assist charities help those in need.

You can help us make an impact on our community
How You Can Help

As stated above, AWC is focused on assisting recognized 501(c)(3) organizations in Central New York, by leveraging the popularity of student-athletes. While the need, as described above, is ample, the support required by these organizations is huge. AWC believes that by leverage the popularity of these student-athletes it will be able to encourage greater public support for these organizations. For example, by having student-athletes attend activities at local 501(c)(3) which runs a soup kitchen, the organization was able to get significant media coverage, publicity that is essential for them in recruiting volunteers and donations. (see here).

Contact Matt Palumb or Cliff Ensley for more information.

Meet Our Team
Cliff Ensley
Founder and Director
(917) 912-9325
Athletes Who Care was established by Cliff Ensley. Ensley, a walk on and SU's Athlete of the Year in 1969 who competed in 3 sports (All-American football '68, Captain and MVP LAX '69 and wrestling). He is CEO of Leisure Merchandising Corp. and serves on the Board of Trustees at SU.
Frank Lazarski
Honorary Director
Frank served over 13 years as President of the United Way of Central New York and has agreed to be an Honorary Director. While Athletes Who Care certainly benefit from Mr. Lazarski's extensive experience in running a 501(c)(3) organization, AWC is most excited about the extent of his numerous community collaborations with the organizations which Athletes Who Care intends to help.
Matt Palumb
Executive Director
(315) 952-4817
Matt Palumb, who played goalie on 3 Syracuse University National Championship Lacrosse teams and was an All-American in his senior year.
Howie Phanstiel
Howard (Howie) G. Phanstiel, '70, G'71, is the retired CEO of Pacific Care, which he led in its merger with United Health Group. Howie received an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters at SU's graduation Ceremonies in 2022. He also serves on Syracuse's Board of Trustees, and since 2005, has served on the Maxwell School Advisory Board. Howie and his wife, Louise, have a long history of philanthropy throughout the Syracuse University community.
Sue McFee-Ensley
Sue and her husband Cliff are generous supporters of Syracuse University and other philanthropic endeavors. Sue is the Chief Merchandising Officer at Leisure Merchandising Corp. Prior to Leisure Merchandising Corp., she held executive positions at Kohl's Department Store and Bloomingdale's.
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