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$1 million from Delaware North will fund new preschool

A new preschool free to kids living in one of Buffalo’s poorest neighborhoods is scheduled to open in September, but that’s not the only good news.

The new school is also getting $1 million.

The gift is from Delaware North, the global food service and hospitality company headquartered in Buffalo, to help support the latest project of Buffalo Promise Neighborhood, the nonprofit spearheaded by M&T Bank.

M&T is investing $1.6 million to convert the first floor of an old parish recreation hall at Bailey and East Delavan avenues into a preschool for 100 children from the Bailey neighborhood.

The $1 million from Delaware North will help fund its operation for the next five years.

M&T Bank Chairman Rene F. Jones called the gift a testament to the long relationship and years of community service shared by Delaware North Chairman Jeremy M. Jacobs Sr. and the late Robert G. Wilmers, who created Buffalo Promise Neighborhood during his tenure as chairman of M&T.

“Bob really understood the role of corporate business in a community, in this community most specifically,” Jacobs said. “He saw it as something that needed to be done and assumed that responsibility. Supporting his view was something that we appreciated, understood and wanted to do.”

Childhood poverty in Buffalo fell in 2016, according to the latest figures from the U.S. Census Bureau, but 44 percent of children in the city were still living in poverty.

The needs are clear: The new preschool has 100 open slots, but 475 kids are on the waiting list.

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

The new preschool 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.

The new Children’s Academy at Gerard Place will make its home in the renovated first floor of a community center at 2515 Bailey Ave. on the campus of Gerard Place – a nonprofit that provides shelter and support for homeless, single-parent families. The preschool will be run by EduKids.

The preschool gives parents the opportunity to get the job training or education they need, but can’t do without quality child care.

The $1 million gift will be announced during an event Thursday morning at Gerard Place.

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