'We are going to push forward': Plan to expand community center revived after Tops shooting – Buffalo News

Uncategorized

Jayden Cooper, 11, cleans toy bricks during a cleanup of the Dorothy J. Collier Community Center on Saturday, June 25, 2022. (Minh Connors / Buffalo News)
Co-organizers Joe’l Staples, left, and Lauren Celenza have a laugh as Lauren’s husband Paul Celenza hugs Lindsay Jakubowski during a cleanup of the Dorothy J. Collier Community Center on Saturday, June 25, 2022. (Minh Connors / Buffalo News)
Joe DeMarco preps to paint a windowsill as part of a cleanup at the Dorothy J. Collier Community Center on Saturday, June 25, 2022. (Minh Connors / Buffalo News)
Sheila Hamilton, left, president of the board of Friends, Inc. at Dorothy J. Collier Community Center, with her daughter Jetaun Jones, executive and operations director of Friends, Inc. at Dorothy J. Collier Community Center on Saturday, June 25, 2022. (Minh Connors / Buffalo News)
Lauren Celenza makes a phone call during the Dorothy J. Collier Community Center cleanup on Saturday, June 25, 2022. Celenza, along with Kim Kamper DeMarco and Joe’l Staples, organized the cleanup (Minh Connors / Buffalo News)
Lindsay Jakubowski, left, helps organize a room as Aaron Ostrod, 13, center, and Cynthia Doyle organize files during a cleanup of the Dorothy J. Collier Community Center on Saturday, June 25, 2022. (Minh Connors / Buffalo News)
Jayden Cooper, 11, and Erin DeMarco, wipe down mirrors of the bathroom during a cleanup of the Dorothy J. Collier Community Center on Saturday, June 25, 2022. (Minh Connors / Buffalo News)
Even before the May 14 hate crime that killed 10 Black neighbors at their local Tops Markets store, Sheila Hamilton and her daughter, Jetaun Jones, were on a mission to revive the community center founded by their mother and grandmother, Dorothy J. Collier.
Collier, a community activist and East Side force of nature, passed away at age 72 in 2010 and many of the youth and family programs she ran at the big brick building at 118 E. Utica St. had dwindled without her.
By the time Covid-19 hit, the Dorothy J. Collier Community Center had reverted to its original role as a senior center, with Hamilton and Jones in leadership roles. They managed to continue a senior meals program with curbside pickup and social programs via Zoom through the pandemic.
They had reopened for in-person activities and were building youth programs, including a free kids’ summer camp, when the racist mass shooting a few blocks away targeted their predominantly Black community.
“I can’t even describe what it did to us,” Jones said from behind the desk in her office at the Collier Center. “But somehow we said, ‘We are going to push forward.’”
As the pair planned new programs, applied for grants and sought volunteers, they marveled how Collier made it seem easy. “It was like whatever she put her hands on, she was blessed to make it work,” Hamilton said.
“She had an administrative gift,” Jones added.
Hamilton and her daughter inherited Dorothy’s drive to help, and they found a kindred soul in an Amherst mom who stepped up after the mass shooting.
World Central Kitchen flew in to provide emergency food relief in a neighborhood already considered a food desert before its only supermarket temporarily closed. Lauren Celenza, a mother of two and former teacher, helped organize the local World Central Kitchen site and became a daily volunteer.
As adults visited the site outside the Frank E. Merriweather Jr. Library , Celenza grew concerned for the children in tow. The Jefferson Avenue and East Utica Street corner became a gathering place for people to pick up hot meals and produce, but also to catch up with their grieving neighbors and exchange news, hugs and handshakes. The kids would grow bored and start running around underfoot.
Celenza took it upon herself to entertain the children. She organized the Jefferson Community Kids Spot and recruited friends to bring games, crafts, books and sidewalk chalk next to the library steps.
Hamilton was walking by with flyers for the Friends Inc. summer camp and stopped at the little play space festooned with bubbles from a machine. She introduced herself to the red-haired woman who seemed to be in charge.
Celenza shared her desire to continue helping the community’s kids grow and heal with aid from volunteers who had responded in the wake of the shootings. Hamilton shared her vision to expand the community center a few blocks from where they stood.
A collaboration was born.
“I went and sat with her where the kids were playing and I took a liking to her right away,” Jones said.
They invited Celenza to the three-story building that was named for Collier when she passed. Its second floor had a huge community space and classrooms that could house the six-week summer camp they planned to start July 11.
The rooms needed cleaning, sprucing and furnishing with educational materials, books, toys and climbing structures for motor skills play. Celenza organized a weekend cleanup June 25 and 26 that brought in 50 volunteers to get the place ready for camp.
“It’s magical,” Hamilton says. “Lauren can really bring people together. She’s got a heart for people and helping, and that’s what we really needed here.”
Hamilton and Jones say they got their own hearts for helping from Collier, a well-known community activist in the 1960s who  “was in the trenches of the civil rights movement,” Hamilton said.
Collier went on to a paid position with the Community Action Organization of WNY. She had six children from her first two marriages and fostered many more in a big house on Humboldt Parkway. She also took in elderly folks, Hamilton said.
In the mid-1980s, Collier started Friends of the Elderly in a storefront on Jefferson Avenue, across from where Tops is now. Ten years later her friend, then-Buffalo Mayor Anthony M. Masiello, launched a community block grant project to repair a former Police Athletic League building on East Utica that was in such disrepair that a falling brick had struck and killed a pedestrian.
Masiello offered Collier use of the building for her programs, which grew to include after-school tutorial programs for youth as well as music, dance and art groups. Friends of the Elderly became Friends Inc., a community center with “a little bit of everything,” Jones said.
For 20 years before her death, Collier ran the center with help from her many connections.
“Her whole goal in life was to help the people in her community be the best they could be,” Hamilton said. “I still meet people who tell me my mother went to court with them, or she gave them money or gave them clothes. She never talked about it.”
Collier stayed involved even as she underwent dialysis the last two years of her life. Then her volunteer board kept things going for a while, but the youth programs disappeared.
Hamilton, retired from the state Office of Children and Family Services and president of the Friends, Inc. board, has stepped into her mother’s shoes. She spent the pandemic dreaming of breathing new life into the community center. Her daughter, home from a career as a designer and model in New York, agreed to serve as executive director .
The center houses the Erie County Stay Fit Meals for Seniors program serving hot meals at noon weekdays; a free bread pantry on Wednesdays, a book club;  free line dancing classes at 11 a.m. Tuesdays; and Bible study and educational seminars. First Friday Fish Fries are held as monthly fundraisers, although the first one after the mass shooting saw the center give away 125 dinners.
The free summer camp for pre-K to sixth graders has nearly reached its goal of 25 kids, and will run 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays July 11 to Aug. 19. The center is seeking to hire a full-time teacher for the camp and teachers for an after-school program and a licensed pre-K daycare center in the fall, Hamilton said.
One of Celenza’s pals, Joe’l Staples, who teaches music play therapy at SUNY Buffalo State, designed the summer camp curriculum with “zones” kids can visit to engage in fun but educational math, ELA and reading activities, games and activities and relaxation spaces, Staples said.
The walls are mostly bare, awaiting children’s artwork. Staples and Kim Kamper-DeMarco, a psychology professor at Buffalo State, mapped out space for sharing circles where kids can get to know each other.
“A sense of community is needed and a sense of belonging is needed, now more than ever,” Staples said. “And when you have kids coming from different schools, they might not know each other, but we can have that circle space and become our own weird little family.”
Last week, Jones and Hamilton learned that Friends, Inc. won an AARP Community Challenge grant to hold monthly Jazz Night gatherings to bring the community together for food, music, activities and speakers from public agencies .  The first Jazz Night event will be a Caribbean Night tentatively scheduled for July 29.
Now the women envision restoring a working kitchen to host cooking classes. Jones plans to introduce young people to sewing and fashion design. The center is seeking donations of healthy snacks for a backpack food pantry so children can choose food to take home.
Celenza said the center has huge potential to link families with resources . Besides Staples and Kamper-DeMarco, she has brought in a literacy specialist, speech pathologist and local parents to serve as community liaisons .
“Our perfect vision would be to connect students in the later stages of their degree programs to the center as volunteers,” she said. “Because how these kids heal and try to move forward is so important.”
Anyone interested in volunteering at Friends, Inc., applying for teacher and daycare jobs or seeking information on programs can email Jones at friendsincdccc@gmail.com or call 716-882-0602. People can also make donations to the center at dorothyjcolliercommunitycenter.com.
The smart way to start your day. We sift through all the news to give you a concise, informative look at the top headlines and must-read stories every weekday.
Higher Education Reporter
I’m the new Higher Education reporter on The Buffalo News business enterprise team. I previously worked at The Post-Standard/Syracuse.com and Syracuse’s Rosamond Gifford Zoo. I’m a Rochester native with family in Buffalo. Email me at jgramza@buffnews.com.
{{description}}
Email notifications are only sent once a day, and only if there are new matching items.
By the time Covid-19 hit, the Dorothy J. Collier Community Center had reverted to its original role as a senior center, with Hamilton and Jone…

The African Heritage Food Co-Op; Buffalo Go Green/Urban Fruits and Veggies; the Resource Council of WNY; and FeedMore WNY are partnering to distribute fresh produce five days a week and other food items two days a week at varying times and locations.

The Tops Markets on Jefferson Avenue will reopen Friday, two months and one day after a racist mass shooting there killed 10 people, injured three and stunned the community.

“There have been a lot of helping hands here,” said Tops Maintenance Manager Tim Bowen. “There will also be something inside the store, but this is sacred to the community, and we want to respect that.”

This year’s harvest of fresh, local fruit and vegetables just grew more plentiful for residents of Buffalo’s East Side food desert who qualify for SNAP purchases.

“I’m designing this effort to move beyond words and to create a platform for long-term investment in East Buffalo projects that will improve food access, and we are prepared to meet that goal,” organizer Kevin Gaughan said.

The way World Central Kitchen mobilized in Buffalo shows how the organization quickly taps a network of staff and volunteers to find people in a community who can help and puts them to work getting meals to people in need.

Leaders of World Central Kitchen, which came to Buffalo after the Tops mass shooting, are trying to gauge what the community needs from their organization, including how long it should stay.

Carlton Steverson hid in a cooler in the store and herded a few other people in with him, all of whom survived. In the week since, he has learned the value of that store and his own value as well.

 
 

Carlton Steverson hid in a cooler in the store and herded a few other people in with him, all of whom survived. In the week since, he has learned the value of that store and his own value as well.

Hearts break, but spirits rebound. Over time, communities shattered by the trauma of a mass shooting don’t necessarily heal, but slowly, they move forward, forever changed.

Mark Talley, the son of Tops shooting victim Geraldine Talley, is channeling his grief into something positive to help others and to help the community where he was raised.

“Awareness is a necessary prerequisite. But taking the next steps beyond that will require a degree of trust and respect not always exhibited by those who write big checks and therefore want to call the tune,” Watson writes.

Community advocates seeking to develop a farmers market, grocery store and youth jobs incubator on Buffalo’s East Side will share plans to revive the project at an event to commemorate the 10 Buffalo mass shooting victims on Tuesday.

Jayden Cooper, 11, cleans toy bricks during a cleanup of the Dorothy J. Collier Community Center on Saturday, June 25, 2022. (Minh Connors / Buffalo News)
Co-organizers Joe’l Staples, left, and Lauren Celenza have a laugh as Lauren’s husband Paul Celenza hugs Lindsay Jakubowski during a cleanup of the Dorothy J. Collier Community Center on Saturday, June 25, 2022. (Minh Connors / Buffalo News)
Joe DeMarco preps to paint a windowsill as part of a cleanup at the Dorothy J. Collier Community Center on Saturday, June 25, 2022. (Minh Connors / Buffalo News)
Sheila Hamilton, left, president of the board of Friends, Inc. at Dorothy J. Collier Community Center, with her daughter Jetaun Jones, executive and operations director of Friends, Inc. at Dorothy J. Collier Community Center on Saturday, June 25, 2022. (Minh Connors / Buffalo News)
Lauren Celenza makes a phone call during the Dorothy J. Collier Community Center cleanup on Saturday, June 25, 2022. Celenza, along with Kim Kamper DeMarco and Joe’l Staples, organized the cleanup (Minh Connors / Buffalo News)
Lindsay Jakubowski, left, helps organize a room as Aaron Ostrod, 13, center, and Cynthia Doyle organize files during a cleanup of the Dorothy J. Collier Community Center on Saturday, June 25, 2022. (Minh Connors / Buffalo News)
Jayden Cooper, 11, and Erin DeMarco, wipe down mirrors of the bathroom during a cleanup of the Dorothy J. Collier Community Center on Saturday, June 25, 2022. (Minh Connors / Buffalo News)
Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.

source

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.