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A Buffalo group that trains teachers and parents to raise responsible children has received a $4.7 million federal grant to help build a national headquarters on Main Street, establish regional offices throughout the country and work toward its goals of operating in all 50 states.

The four-year grant fuels the efforts of EPIC (Every Person Influences Children) to become a national leader in both parent training and character education, which blends lessons on values and responsibility with instruction in academic subjects.

"EPIC has once again proved the excellence of its concept and the success of its program by receiving the largest education grant in the country," said Rep. Jack Quinn, R-Hamburg. "We need to foster parents' relationships and involvement with their children. EPIC helps us do that."

The grant also underlines the remarkable growth of EPIC, a non-profit group formed in 1980 by Robert L. Wilson, a retired Buffalo businessman whose wife was slain by a 15-year-old boy who lived in 11 foster homes after being abused.

A new headquarters is planned for 1000 Main St., a site now occupied by a vacant restaurant, said Vito J. Borrello, EPIC president.

The existing structure will be razed and replaced by a 1,000-square-foot facility with a parent library, child care and training centers and a distance learning facility that will allow interactive training sessions to be beamed throughout the country.

EPIC presently operates out of the third-floor of a dormitory building at Buffalo State College.

The grant is the largest of 20 that were awarded nationwide by the U.S. Department of Education and will allow EPIC to increase its staff from 40 to more than 60 and to nearly double its annual operating budget to about $3 million, Borrello said.

"People everywhere are still reeling from the violent events in schools across the nation, and this grant provides EPIC with the extra impetus to address the root causes of youth violence more fully than ever, when it's needed most," said Mayor Masiello. "We're proud that this good work emanates from Buffalo."

EPIC now operates programs in 17 local school districts, ranging from Buffalo and Niagara Falls to East Aurora and Orchard Park.

Its program is also used extensively in downstate schools, including 21 of 32 districts in New York City.

Volunteers in local communities are also trained by EPIC to run workshops on as many as 49 different topics, including sibling rivalry, learning through play and reading effectively to children.

EPIC has a heavy presence in New Jersey and Texas and operates in 13 other states and the Virgin Islands.

"The whole idea is to help parents, teachers and community members raise responsible adults," Borrello said. "We are looking for major growth nationally."

A separate government grant last year allowed EPIC to contract with Columbia Teachers College to revamp the group's character education curriculum.

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