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Community rallies to aid of the Palace after thefts

After being hit by thieves last weekend who ruined nearly $15,000 worth of air conditioning condensers, the Historic Palace Theatre is getting a lift this week from community groups and residents who want to help undo the damage.

Executive Director Christopher Parada told The Buffalo News on Thursday that insurance "just won't cut it" as the theater looks to replace four units that were vandalized and stripped of their copper by thieves looking for scrap metal late Saturday. The units were installed five years ago through fundraising and a grant from the Grigg Lewis Foundation.

The theater hopes to raise $10,000 to address the problem.

Parada, who calls the Palace a "gem of the city," said the theater has managed to remain open for 86 years, so nothing seems impossible.

Fifteen years ago, when the theater became a nonprofit, "George Fritz from Mills Jewelers challenged everybody in the community to donate $6 so they could buy the building and put a new roof on. Within 2 1/2 months, they had raised $350,000," Parada said. "Every little bit helps. It all matters."

Since people have heard about the theft, he said, the Palace has received several offers of help. First to step up was the Exchange Club, which donated $500 and is challenging other organizations to do the same. Parada said even more exciting is the prospect that an unnamed Buffalo contractor who visited the theater this week may donate four new units.

Whether that is possible still remains unclear, Parada said, but as it stands now, with a $5,000 deductible on their insurance and depreciation of the five-year-old units, as well as costs for installation and plans to upgrade building security, theater officials and volunteers hope to raise $10,000.

"Everything always costs more," Parada said.

The Palace has posted a fundraising goal on its website, www.lockportpalacetheatre.org, on the "Get Involved" section.

Information and photos of the damaged condensers are on the website and the theater's Facebook page. Anyone who wants to help can send checks to the Historic Palace Theatre, P.O. Box 19, Lockport, NY 14095, or can drop by the theater, 2 East Ave., to make a donation.

The Palace continues to have heat in the building, but officials hope to repair the air conditioning units by May, so the theater can handle the heat of summer.

email: nfischer@buffnews.com