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First Niagara funds mentoring

First Niagara Financial Group has donated $500,000 to mentoring programs across the state as part of its overall corporate philanthropy, and is encouraging non-profits to apply for funding.

Executives at the Lockport-based savings bank said they chose mentoring for their donations because of its importance and results. According to a recent study by Big Brothers Big Sisters, about 40 percent of a teenager's waking hours are spent without a companion or supervision.

But students who meet regularly with a mentor are 52 percent less likely than peers to skip a day of school and 37 percent less likely to skip a class, the study found. They are also 46 percent less likely to start using illegal drugs and 27 percent less likely to start drinking.

In 2005, First Niagara Bank and First Niagara Bank Foundation gave $1.6 million to 370 charitable and non-profit groups statewide, so the new commitment would represent one-third of its annual giving.

"First Niagara has always viewed our corporate giving as an investment in our community and its future," said Daniel Cantera, Western New York regional president. "Now a major component of our corporate giving will be designated for directly supporting community initiatives that reinforce and reflect our corporate commitment to mentoring."

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