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LOCAL NEWS BRIEFS

>Peace Bridge to forgo tolls Christmas Day

The Peace Bridge Authority will not charge tolls Sunday in celebration of the Christmas holiday.

The 24-hour toll-free period will begin at midnight Christmas Eve.

"As a 24-hour-per-day, people-driven operation we wanted to look at ways that we could say thank you to our customers and our employees," said Ron Rienas, the Peace Bridge Authority's general manager. "By not charging tolls on Christmas, we're able to spread some holiday cheer and give as many of our employees as possible an opportunity to spend the day with their families."

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>Bank foundation gives $10,000 to help children

The First Niagara Bank Foundation has donated $10,000 to Catholic Charities of Buffalo for its Children's Services program. The program includes foster care, adoption and a support program for pregnant and parenting teens and young adults.

Established in 1998, the First Niagara Bank Foundation awards grants to non-profit organizations in education, art and culture, health and human services, and community reinvestment. To date, the foundation has given grants totaling $2.9 million to 137 agencies.

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>Five counties to share $800,000 to help needy

Five Western New York counties will receive nearly $800,000 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency under the 2006 Emergency Food and Shelter Grant Program, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., has announced.

The funds supplement efforts to help the needy, hungry and homeless. Recipients can use the money for food, one-month utility payments to prevent shut-offs, and one-month rent or mortgage assistance to avoid evictions or to help people leaving shelter to establish their own homes.

Erie County will receive $510,552. Other counties and their grants are Allegany, $26,885; Cattaraugus, $47,395; Chautauqua, $66,478; and Niagara, $127,326.

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