Stuart Harper, former CEO and executive director of Buffalo City Mission, is now focusing his efforts on the epicenter of poverty, Buffalo’s East Side, as president of Build Promise, Inc. on the campus of St. Luke’s Mission of Mercy.
Amy Betros, co-founder of St. Luke’s with the late Norm Paolini nearly 30 years ago, and Chief Operating Officer of its newest initiative, Build Promise, Inc. made the announcement this week during a media event and reception on the project site at 1274 Sycamore St., across from St. Luke’s campus.
“Stuart has a proven ability to serve the poor and homeless and embraces the vision of integrated program partnerships to bring opportunity to where it is needed most,” Betros said.
After 14 successful years at Buffalo City Mission, Harper continues his service to the poor in Buffalo with this move. “In a way, I’m not leaving,” Harper said. “I’m taking up a different post in the fight to bring help and opportunity to those who need it.”
He sees the challenge of fundraising, construction and administration of Build Promise – with $2.5 million already in-hand for this project and the land appropriation completed — as laudatory. “It impressed me that there was already a huge momentum established! I believe this is the perfect opportunity for me to conclude my career on a high note. I am a builder, and this project has the perfect moniker for a guy like me: Build Promise!”
Build Promise, Inc. is an intriguing project that Harper has been watching for some time. “The project is being located in an area of tremendous need and is incorporating some unique services,” he said.
One of those is the ReFresh Spot, which will be located inside the 21,000-square-foot Build Promise multi-use facility at 1301 Sycamore St., directly across from St. Luke’s. ReFresh Spot will give access to showers, laundry and other personal hygiene resources to men who are called housing insecure. The Homeless Alliance of Western New York sees this segment of the population growing at an alarming rate. Often the housing insecure are still in school, employed, etc. and live in a car or couch surf. If there is no access to personal hygiene, eventually this demographic becomes homeless.
“Access to showers and clean clothes keeps an individual in society. It’s critical to support these people before they become homeless in the truest sense,” Harper said.
The facility will also allow for “Code Blue” accommodations for men of the community and provide ancillary services to the neighborhood for personal advancement. This includes:
• A Care and Opportunity Center which will provide programs and health resources.
• Partnerships with other community agencies addressing basic needs such as health care, mental health, legal services and more.
• A larger, more modern industrial kitchen serving the facility as well as nearby St. Luke’s, which currently serves 600 people, two meals a day.
• An option for emergency shelter for Erie County in situations like Code Blue that can shelter up to 170 each night.
Anyone wishing to get involved with Build Promise, Inc. can contact Kathleen Mattar at (716) 867-1243.