The John R. Oishei Foundation has been a supporter of both Buffalo Promise Neighborhood, a unique public/private partnership dedicated to strengthening the community primarily through education, and Gerard Place that offers supportive services to homeless mothers and their children. The organizations operate a short distance from each other on Buffalo’s East side with different approaches but with a shared goal of increasing self-sufficiency and the promise of a better future for East Side residents. When the two organizations began to collaborate to develop a second Children’s Academy, a highly successful early childcare facility in Promise Neighborhood, the Foundation was eager to support the initiative.
Operated in partnership with EduKids and supported by M&T Bank, The Children’s Academy will serve 100 children, ages six weeks to school age, at no cost to their families. It is open to those families who are living in Gerard Place’s transitional housing, to Buffalo Promise Neighborhood families, to those enrolled in on-site workforce training programs and to neighborhood families.
Located in a beautiful old parish hall, it has been completely transformed into the childcare center, a community center, and workforce training rooms, in a spacious, light-filled space. It includes a refurbished gymnasium to be used for recreation as well as for community dinners and other events. Upstairs, a commercial kitchen has been installed for training in the culinary arts, in addition to classrooms for those training for jobs in healthcare fields and office space.
The Oishei Foundation has invested a total of $1 million in the new facility through grants to both organizations. The Foundation has granted an additional $224,000 to Gerard Place since 2000 and $1.1 million to Buffalo Promise Neighborhood for the original Children’s Academy and other operating and program costs since 2010.
The new space will provide a “one-stop shop” for many moms as their childcare needs can be met while they take advantage of job training. A number of social services will also be located in the building, making it easier to access services all in one place without having to find transportation downtown.
Many thanks to Dave Zapfel, President and CEO of Gerard Place, David Chamberlain, CEO of Buffalo Promise Neighborhood, Pamela Hokanson, President & Director of Schools for Buffalo Promise Neighborhood and Amber Stacey of EduKids for providing us a tour and a great discussion!