First Niagara Kicks Off 2009 Mentoring Matters(sm) Program: Children Benefit from Charitable Giving Program Donation of Total $1.5 Million

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First Niagara, highlighting the impact mentoring has in the lives of today's youth, announced the launch of its 2009 Mentoring Matters program today. Mentoring Matters is First Niagara's charitable giving campaign that provides monetary and employee volunteer support to non-profit mentoring programs throughout Upstate New York. This year's kick-off included a $500,000 donation and backpacks to be allocated among eligible program participants. In its third year, Mentoring Matters has donated a total of $1.5 million to more than 77 non-profit mentoring programs in Upstate New York, positively impacting more than 5,000 youth.

Our goal with Mentoring Matters is to align our financial, employee volunteer and communication resources behind one central issue--the scope and impact of mentoring--while empowering our employees to serve as mentors in passionate and committed environments that impart positive change and enhance the lives of young adults

First Niagara, highlighting the impact mentoring has in the lives of today's youth, announced the launch of its 2009 Mentoring Matters program during simultaneous press conferences held today in the Albany, Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo markets First Niagara serves.

Mentoring Matters is First Niagara's charitable giving campaign that provides monetary and employee volunteer support to non-profit mentoring programs throughout Upstate New York. This year's kick-off included a $500,000 donation and backpacks to be allocated among eligible program participants.

In its third year, Mentoring Matters has donated a total of $1.5 million to more than 77 non-profit mentoring programs in Upstate New York, positively impacting more than 5,000 youth.

"Our goal with Mentoring Matters is to align our financial, employee volunteer and communication resources behind one central issue--the scope and impact of mentoring--while empowering our employees to serve as mentors in passionate and committed environments that impart positive change and enhance the lives of young adults," said John R. Koelmel, president and CEO of First Niagara.

According to national studies, mentoring is a critical element in children's social, emotional and cognitive development. Benefits include better attendance and attitude toward school, decreased drug and alcohol use, improved social attitudes and relationships, more trusting relationships and better communication with parents, and a better chance of moving on to higher education.

Raymond Bullock, a mentee in the Syracuse City School District's mentoring program (a 2007/2008 Mentoring Matters winner), said, "My mentor really believes in me; he motivates me to always do my very best. He is my main man and he is pretty cool too."

When asked what he likes best about his mentor Raymond said, "He is caring and we do fun things together. He encourages me to graduate from high school and then go to college. He thinks I can become the Mayor of Syracuse some day."

National studies found that of the 17.6 million youth who could especially benefit from having a mentor, there are still more than 15 million children in need of one. Adults were also found to be more likely to mentor a child if their employers allowed time to volunteer (70 percent) or if their employer encouraged mentoring (48 percent).

"At First Niagara, we are dedicated to closing the mentoring gap," commented Koelmel. "Mentoring Matters allows us to play a direct role in supporting our community's mentoring initiatives that touch the lives of thousands throughout Upstate New York, specifically our leaders of tomorrow."

First Niagara is encouraging non-profit organizations to apply for Mentoring Matters funding. The deadline for submissions is September 25, 2009. Interested organizations can log onto http://www.fnfg.com to begin the grant application process.

About First Niagara
First Niagara Financial Group, Inc., through its wholly owned subsidiary First Niagara Bank, has assets of $11.6 billion and deposits of $6.2 billion at June 30, 2009. First Niagara Bank is a community-oriented bank providing financial services to individuals, families and businesses through 113 branches and four Regional Market Centers across Upstate New York. In April 2009, the company announced plans to add another 57 branches in Pittsburgh, Warren and Erie, Pa., additional deposits of $4.2 billion and additional loans of $839 million in an acquisition that is expected to close in September 2009, pending regulatory approval. On July 27, 2009, the company announced an agreement to acquire Harleysville National Corporation adding $5.6 billion in assets including, $3.6 billion in loans and $4.1 billion in deposits along with 83 bank branches across nine Eastern Pennsylvania counties. For more information, visit http://www.fnfg.com.

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