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City Mission receives $200,000 gift for veterans wing of future community center

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Ronald Peralta, WBFO
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The Buffalo City Mission is planning to construct a new One-Stop Community Center on East Tupper Street. Thursday, a local restaurateur and hotel owner pledged $200,000 to fund a wing within that building to support displaced veterans.

Russell J. Salvatore, through his charitable foundation, will provide the funding to build a veterans' wing within the new community center. That wing will also bear his name when ready.

"City Mission is very important to me, being a veteran," said Salvatore, who explained he formed his foundation to give back to the community which helped make him wealthy.

Also a veteran is the City Mission's chief executive officer and executive director, Stuart Harper. He explained that assisting veterans in need is an important part of the broader task of serving the community's homeless.

"As a former veteran, I only know what it would be like to have to be on the street after coming back from service," he said. "This special gift honors them by supporting a dedicated wing that will serve as a resource and a proud reminder of their service."

Salvatore originally pledged $100,000 for the project but surprised City Mission leaders by announcing Thursday he would double that commitment to $200,000, which was displayed on a ceremonial oversized check.

Veterans' causes are nothing new for Salvatore. Last year, he acquired and donated ten vans to Buffalo's VA Hospital. Meanwhile, memorials to those who served in past conflicts are among the monuments and models featured in the patriotically-themed park in front of his steakhouse and hotel property on Transit Road in Lancaster.

The community center, which is expected to open in 2020, will provide preventative services intended to help those in danger of homelessness avoid ending up on the street, as well as lower the rate of homelessness year-over-year.

"At the Mission, we pass the vision forward to veterans and to all individuals, to help them rebuild their lives," said Aubrey Calhoun, its associate executive director. "Whether it be through completing a GED, achieving a college degree or providing medical care for those who need it most."

The overall cost of the project is $15 million. City Mission officials say its Next Century Capital Campaign, under which the community center is being constructed, is just under $4 million shy of the goal.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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