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FAIR-HOUSING GROUP GETS FEDERAL GRANT

A $247,000 federal grant to Housing Opportunities Made Equal will enable the Buffalo-based agency to add several new programs and continue existing ones, Scott W. Gehl, executive director, said Wednesday.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced it has awarded almost $1.1 million to six fair-housing groups in the state.

HOME plans to add outreach presentations for organizations that serve new immigrants and for the first time publish brochures in English and Arabic, Gehl said.

Also benefiting will be continuing programs for potential victims of discrimination based on religion or national origin, people with disabilities and the homeless; addressing allegations of discrimination; testing rental complexes and real estate firms; and mediating validated cases of discrimination.

The 18-month grant replaces a three-year, $300,000 grant that expires in February, Gehl said.

Event to aid fund for retired religious

John J. Fialka, a reporter in the Wall Street Journal's Washington Bureau, will be the featured speaker for the annual Retirement Fund for Religious fund-raising campaign luncheon at noon Friday in the Hyatt Regency Buffalo.

Fialka's book "Sisters: Catholic Nuns and the Making of America" is scheduled for publication in January.

Each year, parishes throughout the United States take up a collection to help offset retirement costs for men and women religious. Bishop Henry J. Mansell has announced that the Retirement Fund for Religious collection will take place in the Diocese of Buffalo on Dec. 7 and 8.

4 retiring from Lockport police force

LOCKPORT -- Four officers have decided to retire from the Police Department next month, leaving it at least temporarily short-handed, Police Chief Neil B. Merritt said Wednesday.

Traffic Capt. John Cross will retire Dec. 21 after 31 years of service; Capt. John Trowbridge, Dec. 19, after almost 29 years; Lt. Charles Neumann, Dec. 19, after 34 years; and Officer Bruce Smith, Dec. 30, after 30 years.

Merritt, who hopes that all four will be replaced, said the retirements will reduce the number of officers in the department to 49. Together with three other officers who are on workers' compensation for on-the-job injuries, Merritt said, the number of officers available for duty, including himself, will be 46.

"That makes us at least one officer short per shift. If we don't replace them, there'll be a reduction in service," Merritt said. "It will be tough to handle calls (as promptly as officers have in the past). It will be a bad situation. There's no way around that."

Merritt said he is hopeful that the department will be allowed to replace the retirees with new hires or lateral transfers from other departments.

School Board seat to remain vacant

The seat vacated by former Williamsville School Board member Donald Henning last week will remain open until May elections are held.

The School Board on Tuesday voted, 6-2, to operate with just eight members until then. The board had the option to appoint someone to fill the vacant seat or to hold a special election before May. The latter option was dismissed by the board largely because of the estimated $7,500 cost to hold a special election and concerns about the timeliness of the vote, which, because of public notice requirements under state laws, could not be held before mid-January.

"The main concern was the cost," School Board President Ronald S. Shubert said Wednesday. "If it wasn't for the cost, I would have supported (holding a special election).

Henning, a nine-year member of the board, resigned his seat Nov. 12, citing frustration with the direction the board is taking. Henning was re-elected to a third full term on the board in May.

Instead of three open seats up for grabs in next May's School Board election, there will be four. Shubert said the fourth-highest vote-getter in that election will fill the remaining two years of Henning's term.

A chance to pose with the elephants

The Buffalo Zoo is offering a holiday photo opportunity that won't be forgotten -- a snapshot with the elephants.

Beginning Saturday, the pachyderms will pose on weekends through Dec. 22. Photo shoots also will be available Wednesday and Nov. 29. Reservations are required. To make one, call 837-3900, Ext. 100.

The elephant photo package, which includes one 8-by-10, two 4-by-6 and 12 wallet-size photos, costs $20 for zoo members and $25 for nonmembers, including admission to the zoo. Additional photos may be purchased at the time of the sitting.

Religious group plans dinner tonight

"Women's Leadership Role in the 21st Century, a Religious Conversation" will be the topic of a special program offered this evening by the Network of Religious Communities after the organization's annual dinner.

Helen Singh, an Erie Community College professor, will moderate a panel of women of various faiths: Christine Kesterson, a Catholic; Rabbi Jacqueline Mates-Muchin; and Sawsan Tabbaa, a Muslim.

The event begins at 7:30 p.m. in Temple Beth Am, 4660 Sheridan Drive, Amherst. It is free and open to the public.

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