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MISSION HOPES CONCERT WILL HELP PAY $26,000 GAS BILL

Most people who run charitable institutions strive to stay out of hot water, but not the folks at St. Luke's Mission of Mercy.

They are praying that, with the help of God and a talented Irish singer named Dana, they soon will have all the hot water they need.

St. Luke's is a non-profit rescue mission and homeless shelter at 325 Walden Ave. that serves as a beacon in one of Buffalo's poorest neighborhoods. St. Luke's has been functioning for the last seven weeks without gas. It was shut off by National Fuel Gas Corp. on June 10 because the mission could not pay a $26,000 gas bill from last winter.

Amy Betros, co-director of the mission, said that during the long, cold winter, the mission's heating bill kept getting more and more in arrears.

"We did everything we could to cut gas consumption, but we ended up with gas bills of $6,000 a month, and we could only pay $2,000 or $3,000," said Ms. Betros, explaining that the mission operates strictly on donations.

Since June, she said, the staff has been doing some of the cooking outdoors on a propane grill and some of it indoors in an electric oven. Water for cleaning dishes is heated in coffee makers. Clothing is washed in cold water and dried in an electric dryer. And friends invite the live-in staff to their homes to take showers.

"We don't look at it as a negative thing. We all are doing the best we can," said Ms. Betros. "We believe and trust that God will take care of us through the help of good people."

Ms. Betros is praying that a lot of those good people will turn out Sunday for a concert by Dana, a popular Christian singer best known for composing and performing "We Are One Body," the theme of Pope John Paul II's World Youth Day in Denver in 1993.

She will perform at 7 p.m. in St. Amelia's Catholic Church, 2999 Eggert Road, Town of Tonawanda.

Ms. Betros said the church holds 1,800 people and a sellout would mean that, with concert proceeds and money raised earlier, the mission should have enough to get the gas turned on. Tickets, which are $10 in advance or $15 at the door, may be reserved by calling 894-3663.

Norm Paolini, a singer-composer-guitarist who is co-director of St. Luke's, and the St. Luke Music Ministry also will perform at the concert.

To assure that the mission stays in hot water, Friends of St. Luke's is recruiting benefactors who are willing to pledge $10 a month or make a one-time donation to pay future utility bills. Donations may be sent to: Friends of St. Luke's, Box 2332, Buffalo 14219.

A former Catholic parish, St. Luke's uses a former church, convent, school and rectory to shelter men, women and children, operate food and clothing giveaway programs, provide summer activities for children and sponsor monthly concerts at which free food is distributed.

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