Helping the homeless can often start with a simple hot meal.
The Buffalo City Mission received a significant donation to that end on Tuesday. A $150,000 contribution from the Rich Family Foundation will establish the Rich Family Kitchen of Hospitality at the City Mission, a key addition to what will be an expanded community center at the mission's 100 E. Tupper St. location.
"The Rich Family Kitchen of Hospitality represents a place of warmth, nourishment, community, and so much more," said Aubrey Calhoun, associate executive director of the Buffalo City Mission. "It reminds us all about the power of sharing a meal as a way to bring our community even closer together. Through food and health we can help bridge the gap to hope and healing, so more lives in the Western New York community have an opportunity to be restored."
The donation comes via the Rich Family Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Rich Products.
"This is a special moment for the Rich family and our associates as we gather here to celebrate the new facility that will change the face of homelessness in our community," said Howard Rich, vice president of corporate relations at Rich Products. "It's our hope and belief that the new Rich Family Kitchen of Hospitality will serve as a special place of service, good health, food and fellowship that can provide hope and make a meaningful, lasting impact on every individual it serves."
The kitchen will expand to at least 1-1/2 times its current space of 400 square feet, according to Mike Smith, associate director of the City Mission. The kitchen space for preparing meals, and communal space for eating them, will be expanded so that the mission's new community center will be able to increase its food production for the community by at least 20 percent, Calhoun said. Currently, she said the mission's food preparation is 60 percent to those housed at the mission, 40 percent to members of the community.
"It's like going from a Volkswagen to a Cadillac," said Smith. "For equipment, space, flow, the ease, the preparing – just the logistics of everything. It will be a state-of-the-art kitchen."
The additional space will enable the mission to prepare a wider range of meals, and the expanded floor space will allow for more volunteers to assist.
Scheduled to open next year, the $15 million, 75,000-square-foot community center, recently named the Alfiero Family Center of Hope and Promise, is being billed as a "one-stop" center that will provide community and preventative services, emergency shelter, transitional housing and recuperative care for the homeless.
Leaders said $12.3 million of its fund-raising target of $15 million has been met, but construction has already begun on the new center.
"If you're not sure if it's really going to happen," said Stuart Harper, CEO and executive director of the City Mission, "look outside and you'll see those elevator towers – it's happening."