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$1 million donation boosts plans for new Seneca Babcock Community Center

The effort to build a new Seneca Babock Community Center at the site of former Buffalo Public School 26 received a major boost Thursday.

Businessman Roger Hungerford announced he would match the $1 million donation made in March 2016 by Dr. Daniel and Gail Alexander for a new community center at 82 Harrison St., off Seneca Street.

The City of Buffalo has allocated $600,000 for demolition and site preparation costs.

“Growing a city of opportunity for all people in Buffalo requires the public and private sectors to work together to ensure that prosperity reaches all of our residents in every single neighborhood citywide," Mayor Byron W. Brown said in a statement.

"I thank Roger Hungerford for supporting Dr. Dan Alexander's plan to build a much needed community center in our city’s Seneca-Babcock neighborhood, by committing a major philanthropic donation of $1 million."

Hungerford, a Medina native, is CEO of Talis Equity Partners and board chairman of Talis Clinical.

"The Seneca Babcock Community Center has served as a destination for neighborhood youth for generations. This generous donation will help with ongoing efforts to build a center that serves generations to come," said U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins.

The new community center is expected to cost $6.1 million. Other donations include $250,000 from the John R. Oishei Foundation; $124,000 from the New York State Nonprofit Infrastructure Capital Investment Program; $100,000 from the Penman Foundation; and $50,000 from the Cullen Foundation.

Project Manager Paul Ciminelli and other project vendors are providing $829,000 for “in-kind” services to build the physical structure.

“This $1,000,000 donation from Roger Hungerford is a game-changer," Alexander said. "We expect this significant investment to trigger an avalanche of further support for this worthy endeavor. There is no cause nobler than improving the lives of the less fortunate.”

Alexander, an orthopedic surgeon, grew up poor in the Seneca-Babcock neighborhood – one of seven children in a 700-square-foot home with two bedrooms. The community center and the Babcock Boys Club – now the Boys & Girls Clubs of Buffalo – played important roles in his young life.

“I know firsthand the importance of receiving a ‘hand up’ to succeed," he said.

The current center at 1168 Seneca St. is considered too cramped and lacks space to expand. The new Seneca Babcock Community Center, at about 26,000 square feet, will be roughly twice the size and offer new social service and health programs to serve the poor.

There will be a multipurpose athletic field, indoor gymnasium, outdoor basketball courts and new playground, as well as a proposed health clinic adjacent to the new community center, computer lab and kitchen.

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