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Bolstered by an $800,000 anonymous gift to the Sisters of Mercy, Trocaire College and the sisters will kick off the public phase of a $4 million campaign today.

Over $3.7 million has already been raised for the Campaign for the Sisters of Mercy and Trocaire College -- the first ever held by either the college or the Sisters of Mercy here.

Frank J. McGuire, chairman of the McGuire Group, is campaign chairman.

Funds raised will go toward renovation of Mount Mercy Convent on Abbott Road, and rehabilitation and expansion of Trocaire's Marian Hall on Choate Avenue as well as Trocaire scholarships and programs. The convent and Marian Hall renovations are already under way.

The anonymous $800,000 donor is challenging Western New York to raise a like amount, said Sister Peggy Gorman, president of the Buffalo Regional Community of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas.

"We are incredibly moved by the generosity of this donor, and very grateful," she added.

Members of the community are being asked to raise another $800,000 by Feb. 8 -- the day that the Sisters of Mercy will celebrate their arrival in Buffalo almost 140 years ago, Sister Gorman said.

Although the initial $800,000 is specifically for the Sisters of Mercy -- if it is matched, the second $800,000 will be shared by Trocaire and the sisters.

A match would also put the campaign over its $4 million goal.

The $7 million convent renovation is to meet the long-term care and housing needs of the sisters -- who announced earlier this year that they were selling their Orchard Park convent.

The expansion of Trocaire's Marian Hall is to accommodate the college's growing programs and student population. When completed, it will be the single-building home of the college.

According to McGuire, the campaign began seeking major gifts over a year ago -- and more than $700,000 has been received from area foundations; over $350,000 from the corporate and business community.

Employees of the college and the sisters raised more than $150,000 -- and the sisters themselves contributed more than $70,000 from their personal budgets.

In addition to funds received for the building projects, $770,500 has been raised for programs and scholarships, said Sister Barbara Ciarico, president of Trocaire.

Of that amount, $500,000 came from the Statler Foundation for Trocaire's hotel management program.

Honorary chairman and chairwoman of the Campaign for the Sisters of Mercy and Trocaire College are Buffalo native Tim Russert of NBC's "Meet the Press" and local historian and benefactor Julia Boyer Reinstein.

More than 150 supporters of the sisters and the college are expected at today's kickoff of the public phase of the capital campaign, at 5 p.m. in the Buffalo Club.

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