Hélène Biandudi Hofer

Award-winning journalist, documentary filmmaker, TV news magazine host and producer. Creator of The Empty Hanger, a multimedia news project currently in production by Hélène's media group, HBH Enterprises.

WATCH: Former Heroin Addict Speaks Out To Help Save Lives

206 - that is the number of deaths in 2016 related to heroin, opioids, fentanyl, and related substances within the ten counties served by the Monroe County Medical Examiner’s office. That’s a number that grew 142% from 2015 to 2016. It’s also a number that the Polito family of Rochester, like countless others, feared would include their own child, Mary Jo. In 2016 they learned their daughter was addicted to heroin and life as they knew it changed. Now, Mary Jo is speaking out for the first time in the hopes of saving at least one life.

WATCH: Old-School Letter Writing Brings Diverse Demographics Together

From the outside they may look like an unlikely pair. One is an 11-year-old with a passion for handball, skiing and accelerated math. The other is a resident at a senior living center with a love of music - she sings in two choruses and plays in a band. They first met through a letter. It's part of a pen pal project launched by the Hillside Family of Agencies. As Hélène Biandudi Hofer shows us, what started in the form of letter-writing has now developed into something much more.

WATCH: Is Ridesharing Accessible For Everyone?

The Center for Disability Rights recently hosted a candidate forum on disability issues. WXXI’s Hélène Biandudi Hofer moderated the event last year where one question continued to come up for area politicians: Will you vote to approve ridesharing even if companies are not required to ensure people of all abilities can access rides? Fast-forward 12 months and now Uber and Lyft are both operating in Rochester. But are they operating for everyone?

WATCH: Pairing Mentors With Ex-Offenders In An Effort To Reduce Recidivism Rates

It all started with a group of about ten people eager to give back by helping others move forward. They were trained and equipped to take on the proud label of: mentor. Their “mentees” on the other hand had a different type of label, one associated with a host of stigmas due to a troubled past. The mentors: Rochester residents. The “mentees”: ex-offenders returning to the community from time served behind bars. Twenty years later, is this program reducing recidivism rates in Rochester? Hélène Biandudi Hofer reports.

WATCH: Fighting Sickle Cell Disease

Sickle cell. That’s something you've likely heard about, but don’t know much about. Sickle cell is a disease that doesn’t necessarily show wear and tear on the outside, but on the inside, it can do significant damage - damage that can lead to death. But in New York State and in the Rochester region, work is underway to breathe new life into efforts that would improve the prevention of complications and treatment of sickle cell disease.

WATCH: Closing The Opportunity Gap For ROC City Students Through Equity

There’s an opportunity gap that exists in urban education. For those who live in Monroe County, but outside the City of Rochester, this gap matters to them too. How? The fate of our suburbs is deeply connected to the livelihood of our cities, including our public schools. But closing that opportunity gap can happen. Hélène Biandudi Hofer interviews Pedro Noguera, Ph.D., a renowned expert on public education in America, a sociologist and a Distinguished Professor of Education at UCLA & Shaun Nelms, Ed.D., an associate professor at the University of Rochester’s Warner School of Education and Superintendent of East High School.

WATCH: Direct Support Professionals Fight For A Living Wage

A living wage. That’s what a coalition of advocates and community agencies that support individuals with disabilities have been calling for in New York. The focus of that fight - the more than 120,000 New Yorkers who work with and care for individuals with disabilities. They’re called Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) and according to the New York State Chapter of the Arc they’re in chronic short supply. While the governor allocated $55 million in the budget this year to support a wage increase for these professionals working with nonprofits - is that enough to recruit, train and sustain employees?

WATCH: A Woodshop Teaches Teens How To Build Furniture & Character

From ancient Egypt to modern times, the skill and art of woodworking continues to hold a place in society. As Need to Know host Hélène Biandudi Hofer recently learned, if anything it’s a craft with benefits that might far outweigh what you would expect. At least that’s the case for one Rochester woodworking program which has been teaching teens not only how to build furniture, but also character, personal value, and respect.

WATCH: The Incomparable Garth Fagan Talks Life, Dance & New Work

His work has been described as “unfailingly original.” His dancers have been called “fearless.” He has been given the title “creative genius.” And according to the LA Times if there’s such a place as dance heaven, Garth Fagan Dance knows how to get there. Garth Fagan, one of the most acclaimed choreographers in the world talks with Need to Know's Hélène Biandudi Hofer about life, dance and new work.

WATCH: Photographer Arleen Thaler Gives Voice To The Voiceless Through Raw & Powerful Images

Her photographs capture the beauty of a community but also reveal the dark side of humanity. On this edition of Need to Know we’ll see how Rochester photographer Arleen Thaler is advocating for the disadvantaged one picture at a time. We’ll also learn how Thaler’s photographs are being used in partnership with a national campaign to empower survivors of abuse and trafficking.

WATCH: The Presiding Bishop Of The Episcopal Church Talks Battling Poverty, Racism & Violence

Divided is one of the single most common words used to describe the state of our country after the 2016 Presidential election. But on this edition of Need to Know the leader of one of America’s oldest religious denominations offers a unifying charge. The Most Reverend Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church, talks with Hélène Biandudi Hofer about racial justice and reconciliation.

WATCH: Soul Singer Danielle Ponder Tackles Racial Injustice Through Music

It’s a rather simple equation.  Soul + Groove = Danielle Ponder and the Tomorrow People. The New York group has performed throughout Europe and around the US winning over audiences and the “Best Local Band” award from the 2015 Roc Awards. But the meaning behind the songs written by Rochester native and vocalist for the band, Danielle Ponder, are anything but simple and surface-level. Ponder talks with Hélène Biandudi Hofer about her story, her band and the influence of her work as a public defender on her music.

WATCH: Award-Winning Journalist Michele Norris Uncovers America's Attitudes About Race

Her voice is a familiar one for public radio listeners, but her request may be an uncomfortable one for many. Distill your questions, experiences, hardships, and dreams about race and identity in six words. Award-winning journalist and former NPR host, Michele Norris on coming face-to-face with race in America on this edition of Need to Know with host and producer, Hélène Biandudi Hofer.

WATCH: A Conversation With Semi-Retired Film Critic & Author Jack Garner

Have you ever wondered how certain movies have the ability to make you laugh or cry uncontrollably? How they can heal, inspire, and even anger and scare you? After spending decades screening movies and sharing his thoughts and opinions on Hollywood films it’s a safe bet that semi-retired film critic, Jack Garner, knows what makes a movie work and what doesn’t. He discusses the power of film and much more with Hélène Biandudi Hofer, host & producer of Need to Know.
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