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M&T to open new preschool in East Side's Promise Neighborhood

A new preschool is the next piece of the puzzle in an effort to change the lives of kids and families in one of Buffalo's poorest neighborhoods.

The first floor of an old parish recreation hall at the corner of Bailey and East Delavan avenues will be converted into a preschool for some 100 children, as part of the the latest project by Buffalo Promise Neighborhood, a nonprofit spearheaded by M&T Bank.

M&T will invest $1.6 million to renovate the first floor of the two-story building at 2515 Bailey Ave., home to a community center run by Gerard Place – a nonprofit that provides shelter and support services for homeless, single-parent families.

Work is expected to begin this month with the goal of opening by the first half of 2018.

The announcement was made during a news conference Wednesday afternoon.

"Transforming an economically challenged neighborhood into one that can prosper begins by providing children with the opportunity to be successful in school," said Glenn Jackson, chief operating officer for Buffalo Promise Neighborhood.

Buffalo Promise Neighborhood began in 2010 with the intent of providing what they describe as cradle-to-career services for children and their families in the Bailey neighborhood to help them break the cycle of poverty.

The new Children's Academy at Gerard Place will be the fourth addition to Buffalo Promise Neighborhood's expanding footprint, which includes the adoption of the Westminster Community Charter School on Westminster Avenue and Highgate Heights Elementary on Highgate Avenue.

It also involved the construction of the original Buffalo Promise Neighborhood Children's Academy, which opened in late 2013 for 130 children at 3149 Bailey, about a mile away from the new location.

"With this second academy," Jackson said, "we'll be able to provide care and strong academic offerings to twice as many children."

The new preschool will be free to those kids in the Bailey community serviced by Buffalo Promise Neighborhood, who have siblings at either Westminster or Highgate Heights, or if their parents are residents of Gerard Place.

The preschool will give parents the opportunity to get the job training or education they need, but can't do without quality child care, said David Zapfel, executive director of Gerard Place.

The partnership with M&T fits with plans for the Gerard Place community center. The building was purchased in 2011 by Gerard Place, which is trying to raise the last $1.5 million of a $5 million capital campaign to fully renovate the gymnasium and second floor.

"Hundreds of lives are changed every day at Gerard Place," Zapfel said. "As part of the Gerard Place Community Center, the Buffalo Promise Neighborhood Children's Academy will enable us to support entire families as they work to get themselves out of poverty."

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