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YOUTH BUREAU BASKS IN POINT OF LIGHT HONOR

The West Seneca Youth Bureau was established in 1970 with the goal of offering youth programs that emphasize community service.

Thirty years later, the bureau's commitment to youth has not only continued, but has spread into bordering communities.

"We took our traditional Youth Bureau programs and expanded on service and built a foundation of community service, and it grew like weeds," said Mark P. Lazzara, the bureau's executive director.

The bureau has 14 programs, including AmeriCorps, that serve Western New York.

That strong devotion to the area's youth and the region will be recognized Friday with a national award.

The bureau was selected earlier this month as a recipient of the Daily Point of Light Award. The awards program was begun during administration of President George Bush and reinstated in 1998 by the Points of Light Foundation, the Corporation of National Service and the Knights of Columbus.

The award is given every weekday to organizations throughout the country for their commitment to connecting Americans through service and efforts in helping meet critical needs in their communities.

Lazzara said the bureau broke out of its boundaries in 1993 because those needs were being neglected in neighboring cities such as Buffalo and Lackawanna.

"The more we served, the more we realized that they were so many needs, like tutoring and cleaning lots," he said. "The needs were screaming at us."

In 1994, the bureau received a federal grant to start its branch of AmeriCorps.

"And from that point on, we've worked to meet the needs of the community," he said.

The program provides tutoring, violence prevention efforts, urban cleanup, Volunteers in Service to America, administrative support to different agencies and other services.

In the coming year, the program will have 300 volunteers. Different facets of the AmeriCorps operate out of schools and community centers in Buffalo.

Though the award praises the Youth Bureau for its outreach and community service, Lazzara said the honor goes to the thousands of people who have volunteered over the years and to the Town of West Seneca as a whole for its support.

Town Supervisor Paul T. Clark said the town is aware of the needs of other communities and realizes how the bureau's programs can benefit those areas.

"There's a need far beyond the borders of this town, and it has not cost a town a whole lot of money," Clark said. "We try to think regionally. We don't want to be so parochial that we work only within our borders. I'm very proud that our Youth Bureau is being recognized, because they do great work."

Lazzara said the bureau has not forgotten about its West Seneca roots.

"We make sure our efforts in West Seneca continue and are strong," he said.

There will be a celebration of the award at 8:45 tonight in the bureau, 2001 Union Road.

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