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Gerard Place getting $100,000 grant for kitchen

It’s about some kitchen construction work on Bailey Avenue. But it’s also about something bigger.

A grant of $100,000 awarded to Gerard Place will help the organization work on the former parish hall at St. Gerard’s – and a kitchen space to be used for job skill-building.

The grant came from the 21st Century Fund, part of the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo.

“We’re very grateful to the 21st Century Fund,” said David Zapfel, executive director of Gerard Place, which occupies three buildings on the campus of the former St. Gerard’s Catholic Church in Buffalo. “We feel very fortunate.”

The project that will take place in the old parish hall at 2515 Bailey Avenue – now the organization’s community center – includes creation of a kitchen space that will be a training area for job skills for those in need.

To win the $100,000 award – a competitive process – the Bailey Avenue site topped other organizations that entered the biannual grant process, including the Buffalo & Erie County Botanical Gardens, according to the 21st Century Fund.

Repair and conversion of the St. Gerard’s parish hall into a community center is projected to cost $4.7 million, in all, according to Zapfel, who has led the organization for 12 years.

“I like to say, it’s a really cool building. It’s like walking back in the ’50s,” Zapfel said of the old parish hall.

An ornate, historic church in the city, St. Gerard’s shut in 2008.

The new grant will be entirely spent on equipping the kitchen, on the first floor of the building that was the parish hall, Zapfel said.

Once finished, it will be able to accommodate a dozen people at work stations, he said.

Gerard Place also was in the running for grant money from the Junior League of Buffalo this week.

That $275,000 grant ended up being awarded to the East Side’s Torn Space Theater instead.

Gerard Place had sought the Junior League funding – which comes from the group’s Decorators’ Show House events – for a day care at its site.

It was among two finalists out of more than 35 contenders for the money.

The parish hall – now the community center – is 30,000 square feet, the executive director said.

The timeline for the work on the kitchen will likely last much of the rest of the year, said Zapfel.

“Our hope is by the end of the year, our classes are getting going,” he said.

In addition, Zapfel said, Gerard Place would like to hopefully also operate a place for meals for those in need.