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Church to launch activity center

A former Genesee Street warehouse once used for growing marijuana is about to be reborn as a faith-based community center.

Officials of Hananiah Lutheran Church on Sycamore Street will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony and a religious service today at 900 Genesee.

"Eventually, we hope to have all kinds of programs for senior citizens, children and young people in this building," the Rev. Kenyatta T. Cobb Sr., pastor of Hananiah Lutheran, said Friday.

The building once housed what police described as the region's largest hydroponic marijuana operation. The federal government seized it after a January 2003 drug raid conducted by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. More than 1,000 pot plants were confiscated, and several people later took plea deals in the case.

Two years ago, the government turned the 17,000-square-foot building over to Cobb's church under the city's Weed and Seed program.

Cobb said he originally thought that raising enough money to convert it into a community center would take at least six years. But generous donors, he said, have helped him move much faster. The building still needs extensive work, but the pastor said he hopes to begin the first youth programs next month.

"We've received $200,000 in donations from Lutheran churches all over the country and another $100,000 from Lutheran women's groups," Cobb said. "It's one of the Lord's miracles."

Cobb thanked the city, the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, the DEA, the U.S. Marshals Service, the U.S. attorney's office and the Department of Housing and Urban Development for their help with the project.

The building will be called the Hananiah Lutheran Ministries & Family Life Center.

e-mail: dherbeck@buffnews.com

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