Very soon, it will be easier for those in need to receive help with their lives in the North End of the city. A $3.5 million expansion and a program called Daybreak, which will provide expanded services to the surrounding community, was unveiled Friday at the Heart, Love and Soul food pantry.
Leaders of the Ontario Avenue soup kitchen and food pantry announced a major fundraising initiative already underway, which has raised $2.6 million to date, but noted the remaining portion of the needed funds are still being sought from supporters of the mission. “We are excited to announce our Daybreak campaign for Heart and Soul,” said Sister Beth Brosmer, director of facility. She said the fundraising would continue so that the planned expansion can be completed — including renovation of a Niagara Avenue building and a creation of a courtyard and hallway to connect the two buildings — and the programs can be sustained.
Leaders say construction will cost $1.5 million, with $2 million needed for program costs and sustainability. “Daybreak will help to close gaps in services for our vulnerable sisters and brothers in need,” said Brosmer, standing in front of a variety of enlarged photos depicting the design and layout of the expansion.
The plans call for new offices to house a rotating representatives of many service providers to the community, including Niagara County Social Services, Catholic Charities, HANCI, the YWCA and the Veterans Administration. The expansion will serve guests at the center — who can now receive breakfast, lunch and a limited number of other services. It will also benefit the surrounding community, including residents of the Henry E. Wrobel Towers a half-block away on Niagara Avenue.
Attending the announcement were about 60 people, including a variety of local politicians, Niagara University officials, non-profit leaders and dignitaries, which made for a very enthusiastic audience. Robyn Kreuger, CEO of Community Missions and chairwoman of the Coalition for the Homeless, described for those present how the idea for Daybreak came through the coalition. She said a special committee from the coalition was formed after a 2011 presentation at the Heart, Love and Soul from DePaul Industries in Philadelphia about consolidating services to those in need.
A DePaul subcommittee was created and the committee met monthly through the years, trying to determine gaps in services and the types of services needed by the community. It was determined there was a strong need for coordination between service providers and ease in accessing services, she said. “Even for those of us who work in the system, it can be complicated, it can be daunting, just to even get started,” Kreuger said.
The committee looked at several models of service including a program called Daybreak in Macon, Georgia, which serves several hundred homeless people and provides showers, phones, computers and access to staff from assistance providers who worked out of the Macon center. Kreuger said another model considered was the Veterans Administration One Stop in Buffalo, which has satellite offices in Lockport and Niagara Falls.
The committee created Daybreak with those ideas in mind and the new center will include a “welcoming environment” blending hospitality and compassion with accountability and responsibility. There will be showers, a cafe, sitting areas and a work area. On-site service providers will offer workforce training, behavioral health, financial literacy, legal advocacy and education assistance. “Daybreak will open the door to a robust network of partners whose services reinforce and strengthen each other,” said Anthony J. Restaino, commissioner of Niagara County Social Services.
President of the board of Heart, Love and Soul Board, Dr. Whitney Vantine, called the Daybreak fundraising effort “an opportunity for old friends and new to come and support our vision.” Whitney, former superintendent of schools in the City of Tonawanda, is a 10-year volunteer at Heart, Love and Soul who serves food to guests every Thursday. At the podium, he reached out to those in attendance for their support. “Today, we ask you to join us in whatever way you can make a difference in our community,” he said. “Meet with us, take a tour, volunteer for a day. I’d love to have you serve food with me on Thursday and see the impact your involvement can have.”
For more information about the fundraising effort, call Heart, Love and Soul at 282-5687.
Author: Michele DeLuca
Source: Niagara Gazette