The Witness Project Team connecting WNY to
Preventative Care & Wellness Resources


Charlie Stayton & Mattye Willis

Dr. Deborah Erwin

The Witness Project® was initiated in 1990 by Ms. Charlie Stayton, Mattye Willis, Deborah O. Erwin, Ph.D., a medical anthropologist at the Arkansas Cancer Research Center, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, and Thea Spatz, Ed.D., a certified health education specialist at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

The Witness Project® was the first program in Buffalo to focus on socioeconomically disadvantaged women through African American churches. Witness Project® programs are presented in churches and community centers by Witness Role Models (WRMs) and Lay Health Advisors (LHAs). WRMs are African American women who are breast or cervical cancer survivors. Their presence as survivors is seen as a blessing and proof that cancer is not a death sentence.

During a Witness program session, WRMs witness by talking about their experiences with cancer, stressing the importance of early detection and answering questions about their personal experiences, fears, and concerns.


Dee Johnson - National Director

Dee Johnson has served as staff to the National Witness Project® (501c3) Board of Directors for ten years, Assistant Director of Training for the National Witness Project® for seven years and is the current Director of the program. Locally, she and the Witness Lay Health Advocates (LHAs) and survivors in Buffalo currently reach over 2,000 African American women a year and navigate over 1,000 women over 40 years of age to breast and cervical screening services in the area. 

She has over 18 years of experience in community outreach, recruiting and coordinating volunteers, performing patient and community-based navigation to health services, and building community contacts, trust, and networks. 

First Ladies of WNY (FLOW)

FLOW is a group of wives of pastors from prominent, larger, African American churches who use their prominence to better minority communities. They represent a diverse range of Christian faith churches that reach a significant number of racial-ethnic minorities across New York State. They are committed to addressing topics of health disparity related to race, ethnicity, and access to care. FLOW hosts an annual gospel explosion every year to raise awareness in the African America community about health disparities, where 500 women and men in the community are in attendants.

Meet the TEAM

In church, people witness to save souls, At The Witness Project, they witness to save lives!

All of our CHW's are dedicated to helping you Save Your Life!


Outreach Manager


Office Manager


Special Projects & Data Manager


Community Navigator


Community Navigator

Join the team

Are you someone passionate about making change in your community's health? 

Find out more below about how you can become a Witness Project Volunteer!