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Youth crime-avoidance center planned at Lockport Salvation Army

LOCKPORT – The Lockport chapter of the Salvation Army plans to sponsor a program to steer adolescents away from crime, its local commander said Wednesday.

The “Bridging the Gap” program, the first of its kind in upstate New York, willl be made possible by building an addition to Salvation Army headquarters at 50 Cottage St., where a groundbreaking ceremony was held Wednesday.

Construction on the $2.4 million project, which includes renovation of much of the space within the existing building, will start next month, said Maj. Jose Santiago, pastor at Lockport.

Santiago said the Salvation Army has $2.2 million in hand already through gifts from Lockport citizens and local foundations, including the Grigg-Lewis Foundation, the John R. Oishei Foundation, the Community Foundation of Greater Buffalo, the Margaret L. Wendt Foundation, the Thomas S. Kenan Foundation, the William Kenan Trust and the Hadley Family Foundation.

The second floor of the existing building will be remodeled to host “Bridging the Gap.” The program is aimed at 12- to 15-year-olds who have already had one nonviolent brush with the law.

“It’s an intervention type of program,” Santiago said. “We work with the court system, probation officers, to reach children who have violated the law for the first time.”

Adolescents from all over Niagara County would be referred to the program by the court system. Santiago said the Salvation Army will hire a director and a staff of what he called “professional volunteers” for the counseling effort.

The Salvation Army currently serves an average of 170 lunches a day at its dining hall. The food pantry supplies help to about 200 families a month.

The gymnasium in the existing building will be remodeled as part of the project, with new locker rooms and restrooms.

Donations may be mailed to the Lockport Salvation Army, 50 Cottage St., Lockport, NY 14094-4342.