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Anyone who cares about children, mothers, the East Side and Buffalo in general should be encouraged by a recent News article about St. Luke's Mission of Mercy and the community it is trying to build.
Taking to heart the proverb that it takes a village to raise a child, these volunteers are planning Gospa Village, a secure compound of 12 single-family homes and a community center to be built on a block of mostly vacant lots now owned by the City of Buffalo.
This inspirational construction is directed toward at-risk single mothers and their children. When complete, the atmosphere should be one of security and hope. It should also provide the type of guidance that may have been missing in their lives.
As Amy Betros, who co-founded the mission with Norman S. Paolini Jr. in 1994, told News reporter Janice L. Habuda, "Some [women] just don't know how to be mothers. We can teach them and help them. We can help keep families together."
The sentiment carries meaning, along with "Gospa," the Croation word for "mother." (The name was inspired by a pilgrimage Betros made to the former Yugoslavia in 1990.) Sometimes it is not only the child who needs mothering.
St. Luke's is an independent mission with a Catholic tradition. As designated developer, St. Luke's is in the process of buying lots and negotiating the purchase agreement. Once the logistics are complete, it will be time to start digging and building on the block directly west of St. Luke's Church, bordered by Oberlin, Walden and Ruhlan avenues and Sycamore Street.
This American Dream will be something special for those who acquire the 1,400-square-foot homes. Extra assistance will be forthcoming in the form of a live-in missionary, and the community will include an interior courtyard and playground.
Perhaps just as inspirational is the array of expertise involved on a volunteer basis. It is easy to understand why.
David E. Knauss, president of Lehigh Construction Group, met Betros about 15 years ago while working with a Southtowns church group on a St. Luke's house. He signed on after hearing Betros' words, "I think God sent you here today to help me carry out this mission."
Knauss added, "She just laid it out for me and I basically couldn't say no."
Much the same could be said for the others who followed, some inspired by those who had already joined in the effort. Douglas M. Scheid, owner and president of Scheid Architectural, started helping after hearing of the effort from Knauss.
Then Scheid contacted Adam S. Walters, a partner at the Phillips Lytle law firm specializing in land-use planning. Same goes for these other Scheid recruits: Lender Consulting Services, Nussbaumer & Clarke engineers and surveyors and Advanced Design Group, which specializes in sewer and stormwater retention projects.
Grants and donations, along with a benefit - the sixth annual Gospa Gala scheduled for Oct. 26 - will build the financial foundation. Members of the public who see the big picture - a small village with a greater vision of becoming a positive force for the East Side - will dig deep.