Muslim, Jewish and Christian prayers echoed through St. John de LaSalle Catholic Church as community members joined together Sunday to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the Health Association of Niagara County.
The interfaith service capped off a monthlong celebration of the agency's evolution from an organization focused on fighting tuberculosis to one that meets health needs today that vary from adult day care services to child nutrition.
"To all of you I say, salaam, shalom, peace," said Jeff Paterson, HANCI's director of communication and advancement. "For we gather in peace. We gather in fellowship. We gather in unity."
The service featured readings by Laurence Boxer of Temple Beth Israel in Niagara Falls, Imam Fajri Ansari of Buffalo's Masjid Nu'Man mosque and the Rev. Stanley Gordon Smith of St. John African Methodist Episcopal Church in Niagara Falls.
Each religious leader prayed for the organization's service and for its future.
"We need light in our world, the light of our good works, of great people, those who are concerned about the poor and the needy," the Rev. Joseph L. Levesque, president of Niagara University, said during a reflection on HANCI's work.
The nonprofit agency was founded in 1927 from its predecessor, the Niagara County Tuberculosis Society. Since then, HANCI has evolved to meet new health needs in the county. Next year, HANCI expects to open a $3.5 million complete care program to help senior citizens live at home.
HANCI Executive Director John W. Kinner said the organization's focus has remained on health and wellness in Niagara County throughout its 80 years.
"The program and services have evolved throughout the years, but the mission has always stayed the same," Kinner said.
Levesque praised HANCI's work as a community leader and servant and said it "gives hope to the community."
"I hope that a lot of us can follow that example," Levesque said. "The community of Western New York, of Niagara Falls, needs us."