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Explore & More donation honors retired Rich Products executive

A Rich Products executive is being honored for her service to the family-owned food service company, and the key role she played in bringing Explore & More Children’s Museum to Canalside.

The Rich Family Foundation announced Thursday that it is giving $250,000 in Maureen Hurley’s honor to Explore & More’s Play It Forward Capital Campaign to build the museum, and the establishment of a scholarship fund in her honor to subsidize admissions for needy West Side families.

Hurley retired as Rich Products’ executive vice president and chief administrative officer on Wednesday, ending a 31-year career.

“Bob and Mindy Rich have very generously given a gift in my honor, and I am overwhelmed and gratified that they share this passion,” Hurley said. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to have been a part of the Rich Products family.”

Hurley was an early advocate for the museum’s relocation from East Aurora to the waterfront as a board member of Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. between 2007, when she followed Mindy Rich on the board, and 2012.

“One of the community projects Maureen spent countless hours involved with in recent years was helping to shape our downtown waterfront,” Mindy Rich said in a statement. “I can think of no more meaningful way to thank her for her years of service than with this gift to Explore & More in her honor.”

Hurley made family attractions a priority at Canalside while on the board, during which time consultants recommended a children’s museum as part of a cultural master plan.

“In our studies, we learned a number of turnaround projects in other cities with waterfronts involved children’s museums. That made it a natural for us,” Hurley said. “I thought it could be part of a mix that would make Canalside attractive to everybody.”

The same plan recommended a carousel, now under consideration for the waterfront.

“I’m delighted to see that as part of the mix as well,” Hurley said. “What’s wonderful for me, having been off the board since 2012, is that some of these early ideas had staying power, and are ending up as a reality down there. I think our children will be very grateful for the work this generation has done.”

Matt Davison, Explore & More’s board president, said a plaque in honor of Hurley will be displayed prominently in the museum’s eventual entrance area.

“There really is no Explore and More at Canalside without Maureen Hurley,” Davison said.

“This donation on her behalf is a major gesture by Rich Products. We are extremely grateful for not only this major donation, but for all of their efforts and advocacy on behalf of the museum that Maureen spearheaded.”

Davison, who served as Erie Canal Harbor’s spokesman while Hurley was on the board, said Hurley was a kind of role model to him.

“She is a rare breed of skilled business executive and passionate but also effective civic person. I have always looked up to her as someone to emulate in both life and business,” Davison said.

The donation brings the museum’s capital campaign fundraising to $7.5 million, on its way toward a goal of $18.3 million. It comes on the heels of $1 million gifts from both Delaware North and Wegmans, the latter split between the Wegmans family and company.

Groundbreaking is expected at the end of 2016.

William Gisel Jr., Rich Products’ CEO, applauded Hurley’s role in advancing careers for women in the food service industry and her leadership at Rich Products.

“Despite her many community and industry achievements, Maureen saved her best work for the Rich’s organization. In so many ways, we can attribute our distinctive family-based culture to Maureen’s leadership and advocacy ... Suffice to say, her legacy at Rich’s is secure.”

email: msommer@buffnews.com