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Troubled youngsters in the City of Tonawanda will find help close at hand with next month's opening of a family assistance center in the junior-senior high school complex.

The center will coordinate existing community services that address such problems as juvenile delinquency, substance abuse and domestic violence.

It also will provide information and referrals, on site counseling and various prevention services, such as a parenting education program.

Tonawanda School Superintendent James C. Holler said the center will help students "who come to school and don't have their minds on their work because of their personal situations."

Although the center will be located at the high school, services will be available to all families within the district, said Kim Cassidy, coordinator of the Sweet Home Family Support Center and facilitator for the Tonawanda center's 25-member planning committee.

The United Way, Catholic Charities, the Boys and Girls Club of the Tonawandas and other agencies will join the city, schools and county in providing services to the center. Some of the local organizations will also provide volunteers.

Ms. Cassidy said the facility, to be known as the Family Assistance Center of Tonawanda, will offer year-round services because "problems don't go away in the summer."

The program has received some first-year financial assistance that includes a $20,000 state collaborative grant obtained by the city and the school district, a $15,000 special project grant from the United Way of the Tonawandas, and a $10,000 Partners for Children grant from the state Education Department.

Holler said he is exploring long range funding of the center, which will be run by a non-profit organization and financed largely through grants. "This is not a school program," he said.

James P. Tauriello, the school district's director of pupil services, said the search for grants and preparation of grant proposals will be among the duties of Michele D. Lash, who was recently named the center's part-time coordinator.

Ms. Lash, who was a social worker in the school health program at Sisters Hospital, will also coordinate client referrals in order to prevent a duplication of services. That's expected to provide some relief for taxpayers and keep the various agencies from working at crossed purposes.

The planning group, whose members represent the city, schools and charitable agencies, will oversee the center's operation.

Tauriello said the family assistance center is expected to open the week of Nov. 3. The facility will be housed in one room at the rear of the high school complex, which is located at Fletcher and Hinds streets.

In addition to the Sweet Home center, family support facilities have been established in the Hamburg and Cheektowaga-Sloan districts. Ms. Cassidy said the Sweet Home center meets with approximately 150 families per year and serves about 90 families on an ongoing basis.

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