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A year and a half after a fire destroyed the Depew Boys & Girls Club, a heartfelt effort gets under way to build a $2.2 million state-of-the-art facility at the same location in the village.

“The fire rendered that building useless. It’s been a while in coming, and I think we’ll be coming back bigger and stronger,” said the clubs’ executive director, David Hoch, who noted the club has been based at 60 Preston St. for 78 years. “So, the village was happy when we decided to rebuild at that site. It means a lot to the community.”

A fire on Jan. 1, 2013, ravaged much of the building, which served children from Depew and Lancaster. Since then, the Depew School District has allowed the club to operate out of the former Terrace Elementary School. That school has since been sold, so the club during the coming school year will use the Lancaster Boys & Girls Club on Broadway near Central Avenue.

The new facility’s anticipated opening is at the start of the 2015-16 school year. The children will be bused by Depew School District.

A groundbreaking ceremony at the Preston Street site will kick-start the effort at 10 a.m. Tuesday, followed by asbestos removal expected to begin later in the week. The reconstruction and rebuild is expected to be completed in about seven months.

Finding a way to rebuild and getting together the money has not been an easy feat. It took nearly 11 months to receive insurance money on the building.

“We didn’t know where we stood,” Hoch said.

The club thought $1.4 million, which it obtained through insurance money and fundraising, would be enough. But bids came back higher, at $2.2 million.

In fact, if not for restaurateur Russell J. Salvatore, there would be no rebuild, Hoch said.

Salvatore in late June committed to donating $600,000 to complete the project. His donation – the largest one for the project – allowed the club to get a commitment for a construction mortgage, Hoch said.

It will be known as the Russell J. Salvatore Boys & Girls Club of Depew-Lancaster.

Known for spreading his wealth around to Lancaster and Buffalo-area charitable events and community endeavors, Salvatore came through again.

“They approached me, and I know them,” the 81-year-old restaurateur said. “I feel like I’ve been saying ‘yes” to everybody lately, but life is short, and I believe in giving. I feel very honored to be part of the project to make it go.”

Salvatore said he saw the club needed help, so when Hoch approached him, he wanted to make it happen.

“The town has been good to me. My name will be headlining it,” he said. “I’m trying to get as much of my name on buildings for my legacy.”

The club will offer a blend of old and new in its rebuild, plus it will be expanded.

“This new building will be state-of-the-art,” Hoch said. “It’ll be an attractive building and offer additional programming. It’ll be a lot better than the old building.”

The club has been serving 75 to 90 children daily at its temporary location and is looking to double its daily attendance and membership numbers with the new building.

The 7,200-square-foot footprint will be enlarged to 8,500 square feet and offer a new entranceway, basement, first-floor and second-floor level. A kitchen and cafeteria will be added in the basement area to accommodate community dinners and snacks for after-school children.

A study room and computer room will be featured, along with a game/teen room on the second floor for use by teens in the evening hours. The club also will be wheelchair accessible and brought up to code. The gymnasium, which suffered less damage in the fire, will have its floor repaired.

Hoch, who noted the club is grateful for all the generous donations from both residents and businesses, said the organization still needs about $150,000 more for the project. The club has made funding requests to local foundations. Anyone interested in donating can contact Hoch at Lancaster Boys & Girls Club, 5440 Broadway.

email: krobinson@buffnews.com