Alumnus Leads Center for Homeless Families on East Side

Gerard Place — a community center that supports homeless, single-parent families with long-term housing and resources — will offer pre-school services through a new academy in 2018. Executive Director of Gerard Place David Zapfel, ’85, said the new preschool (which will enroll approximately 100 children) will expand the center’s educational  services to the youngest members of the community.   

“Gerard Place provides education, vocational training, life-skill classes, and counseling to its adult residents. The Children’s Academy will allow us to provide more resources for early-childhood development, and help ensure that the families we serve can break the cycle of poverty,” Zapfel said.

The Children’s Academy at Gerard Place will be spearheaded by Buffalo Promise Neighborhood, a nonprofit lead by M&T Bank. M&T will invest $1.6-million for renovations to the first floor of Gerard Place, a two-story building located in the Bailey-Delevan neighborhood of Buffalo’s East Side.   

“We are committed to improving the lives of children and families. This new project is true to the Gerard Place mission, and we look forward to serving more families in the Buffalo Promise Neighborhood,” Zapfel said.

Representatives from Buffalo Promise Neighborhood, Gerard Place, the Buffalo Public Schools, the New York State Assembly and the City of Buffalo announced the groundbreaking of the Children’s Academy pre-school on Wednesday. The press conference included Mayor Byron Brown, ’83, and State Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes, ’74, ’02.

Peoples-Stokes said equity in public education is integral in order to build thriving neighborhoods and sustainable workforces in Buffalo. 

 “The earlier children are educated, the better they will be for their entire life. We must start with our babies in order to be successful with our adults,” Peoples-Stokes said. “Our work won’t be finished until all children in every neighborhood have access to the same resources and opportunities.”  

Brown said public-private partnerships like the Children’s Academy at Gerard Place will contribute to future economic and social vitality in areas like Buffalo’s East Side. 

“I know the best days for the city of Buffalo are still ahead of us,” Brown said. “The neighborhood is being transformed through partnerships like this: And with the right investment, there’s nothing our children can’t accomplish.”    

Renovations are expected to begin this month, and the Children’s Academy at Gerard Place will begin operating its first half next year.

Originally posted: July 2017