Volunteer At Home Opportunity

Looking to give back during the holidays? Assembling personal essentials kits for our Hope Center is a COVID-safe way to volunteer on your own time!
We’ve partnered with the United Way of Buffalo & Erie County’s Family Volunteer Season program to get more folks involved in volunteering while staying safe amidst the pandemic. Any number of kits donated is greatly appreciated and will go to good use in our Hope Center’s personal essentials pantry.
Visit uwbec.org/family-volunteer-day for instructions on how to assemble the kits and info on how to get them to us.
Questions? Email our Development Director, Sarah Maurer, at smaurer@urbanctr.org.

A Home for the Holidays at Hope House

In a year where the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many of us to stay close to home, we may have taken for granted what a luxury it is to have a safe home to retreat to.

Our Matt Urban Center housing team recently handed the keys to our very first tenants at Hope House, our newly renovated apartment complex located in the former P.S. 57 building on Sears Street. Our partners at Best Self Behavioral Health helped us in securing a safe, warm, affordable home for Christina and her 10 year-old daughter, Na’zia.

Christina had been patiently waiting for those keys for a long time. The past two years have been a rough road for her as she worked to overcome substance abuse and the hardships it brought to her and Na’zia’s lives.

“I’ve always been a drinker, but then I started indulging in cocaine,” she said. “I did that for about a year and a half, and I lost everything – my job, my car, and my home.”

Christina got into a 28-day rehab program at the Stutzman Addiction Treatment Center, but when the program concluded, she knew she wasn’t ready to step out on her own yet. She made her way to Best Self’s Lighthouse Women’s Residence to continue her recovery. Upon hearing from her counselor that she was a candidate for tenancy at Hope House, she requested to extend her stay at Lighthouse while waiting for renovations to be completed. She knew there were so few options for affordable housing where she and her daughter could go and truly feel safe.

“They asked if I wanted to leave and wait, but I didn’t want to jeopardize my recovery being somewhere else, and there’s a lack of places for women to go safely with their children,” Christina said. “It was a journey being optimistic, but I believe in God and he kept telling me if you just wait, it will be so worth it. I would do it all over again. I would wait another 6 months if I had to.”

Now Christina has a bright, modernly furnished apartment with large windows and on-site laundry facilities. She’s close to the Broadway Market, the post office, and other businesses where she can run her errands. More importantly, she has access to support from the Best Self Behavioral Health staff who work in the building when she needs it. And for the first time in two years – since they lost their home – Na’zia finally has her own room and privacy again.

“I’m so grateful for this place,” Christina said. “To be able to come somewhere secure, safe, affordable, and nice on top of everything else. I was expecting the bare minimum, but it’s so beautiful and modern and innovative with the high ceilings and the light fixtures. This is my sanctuary.”

Christina and Na’zia are looking forward to decorating their new home for the holidays with Christina’s mother, and continuing to work on their DIY projects together. The enjoy spending time together making jewelry and finding new ideas from online tutorials. Christina’s also looking forward to having a quiet space to write her poetry.

“I’m really into my NA book now, I do a lot of meetings,” she said. “I like to help other women who have been through the same things that I have. I’m just looking forward to working with my peers here to sustain my sobriety and just do my part, being responsible and living life on life’s terms. I want to be able to sit with my emotions, deal with my problems as they occur, keep my daughter happy. I really just want to do my part and evolve.”

Below is a poem Christina wrote, inspired by her new home at Hope House:

Hope is home after a long day of confusion

Where your reality is yours without any illusion

Your family is safe and call this place home

Where you’ll be content even when you are alone

This place is comfortable and affordable too

Within the decisions you make, you’ll find the hidden truth

That this is the place that you can be you

Where tenants are happy and have found hope here, too!

For those who need housing assistance and want to learn more about applying for an apartment at Hope House, contact Best Self Behavioral Health at 716-449-3372.

Keep an eye on our website and Matt Urban Center social media for more stories and updates from Hope House!

Hope Center Presents Holiday Meal To-Go!

Mark your calendars for December 23! Chef Chris is whipping up another delicious, free holiday meal for the community from the Matt Urban Hope Center’s Urban Diner. All meals are grab-and-go and can be picked up at our 385 Paderewski Drive. Masks are required at pick-up.

Making Spirits Bright: Donation Spotlight

The giving season is upon us, and that couldn’t be more apparent with the overwhelming number of in-kind donations we have received. From blankets and winter clothing, to non-perishable food items and Christmas gifts for children – we are absolutely blown away by the generosity of our local community and their compassion for the families we serve. A special thank you goes out to the following in-kind donors:
Ingram Micro
Main Pediatrics
Savarino Companies
Tabernacle of Praise
Buffalo Police Department C District & NET Team
Haley Marketing Group
Elizabeth Felmet
Charlene Stalikas
Vinnita McDuffie
The Bajdas Family
Patricia Cichocki
Kevin Young
Kristin Fyda
Rebecca Bremiller
Jeffrey Scharoun
Maria Slawson
The Zulewski Family
Emma Rich
Nancy Maiarana
We’d also like to give a big shout-out to these generous individuals for making monetary donations to our Giving Tuesday campaign to support the women and children staying at our Hope House emergency shelter during the holiday season:
NYS Minorities in Criminal Justice Association
Jessica Aungst
Robert Scott DeLuca
Brandon Jones
Marcia Pacciotti
Karen Carman
Alissa Venturini
Gina Pfleegor
David Kiefer
Ellen Scheuering
Jeffrey Miller
Thomas Idziak
Thank you to our community of kind and compassionate donors! We hope you all have a wonderful holiday season and stay well!

Cookies for a Cause Raises $2000 for Hope House

Despite the challenges presented by the pandemic, the 2020 Cookies for a Cause fundraiser to benefit Matt Urban Center was a tremendous success!
Since 2017, Rebecca Decker has organized a cookie exchange at the holidays with all proceeds going to support the women and children staying at our Hope House shelter. This year’s event was a cookie sale with socially distanced pick-ups to accommodate COVID-19 guidelines. Thanks to our generous supporters, the event raised over $2,000.
Since its inception, Cookies for a Cause has raised $6,500 to support Hope House. Extra special thanks go out to Rebecca Decker for all her hard work in organizing this annual event on our behalf!

Matt Urban Center Announces New Executive Director

The Matt Urban Center has appointed Benjamin Hilligas as its new Executive Director. He will join the agency in January 2021.

Alissa Venturini, Acting Executive Director, states “I am thrilled to welcome Ben Hilligas to the Matt Urban Center team. He and I have worked together in different capacities over the years. He is a kind and dedicated leader and I am honored to have this opportunity to work alongside him.” Venturini will be returning to her role as Chief Program Officer once Hilligas arrives.

Hilligas joins the Matt Urban Center from the Erie County Department of Social Services, where he served for the past six years as Senior Youth Bureau Director in the Division of Youth Services. Prior to his time with Erie County, Hilligas worked for Say Yes Buffalo and Compass House youth shelter in a variety of capacities.

Hilligas received his Master’s degree from The University at Buffalo and is licensed to practice social work by the State of New York. He has received ongoing education and certifications from the NYS Institute for Youth Justice, Georgetown University Center for Juvenile Justice Reform and has recently been working closely with the Haywood Burns Institute and the Flourish Agenda, both national leaders in racial equity work, on several local and statewide initiatives.

“The Matt Urban Center is a critical human services provider in our community in addition to, like the surrounding neighborhood itself, a historic institution and cultural touchstone,” Hilligas said. “I had the pleasure in my career of working with many talented employees of the agency and have always come away from those interactions impressed and inspired. My goals as a leader, a social worker and a civically minded citizen of the City of Buffalo, is to ensure that every member of our community has the resources and support they need to achieve success and provide for the health and well-being of their family. I believe that the Matt Urban Center has been providing precisely this type of service for over 40 years and it is my distinct honor and privilege to have been selected by the Board to continue that legacy while evolving the organization to meet the needs of the future. I want to thank the board for the enormous time and energy they have committed to leading the agency during an uncertain time as well as the rigor with which they approached the search process. I look forward to working with the Board, agency leadership, staff at every level, community members and all of our partners to ensure mutual success and the continued revitalization of our City and region.”

“We are excited about Ben’s appointment and are looking forward to working with him on the Center’s vision for the future,” said Marcia Pacciotti, Board Chair. “We will be taking a close look at the agency and all the services we provide, and evaluating what is working, what we can improve upon and how well we are meeting the needs of our community. Our focus is always on our mission to revitalize neighborhoods, serve families and change lives.”

The Matt Urban Center has been proudly serving East Buffalo, the Town of Cheektowaga and West Seneca for the past 44 years. It fulfills its mission by bringing together public and private resources in an effort to assist community residents in becoming self-sustaining.

Grab-and-Go Thanksgiving Feast at Matt Urban Hope Center

Join us next Wednesday, November 25 for a grab-and-go Thanksgiving Feast prepared by our Hope Center chef, Chris! Meals are free to the community and can be picked up from 2-5pm outside 385 Paderewski Drive. Masks are mandatory and social distancing measures will be in place. One member of a household can come pick  up on behalf of your family.

Happy Thanksgiving to our community!

Hope Center Now Assisting Residents With Rent and Mortgage Assistance Applications

The Matt Urban Hope Center, located at 385 Paderewski Drive, will be assisting residents with processing their documentation to apply for Live Well Erie and City of Buffalo Cares Act Rental and Mortgage Assistance, from now through November 25.

This program will provide temporary rent and mortgage assistance to individuals who were unable to pay their rent or mortgage due to circumstances related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

All residents must first call 2-1-1 to verify their eligibility for this program. Once deemed eligible, residents may contact our Hope Center staff to set up an appointment to submit their documentation. We cannot accept walk-in clients at this time due to COVID-19 restrictions at our facility, so an appointment is suggested to ensure timely assistance. Please call (716) 893-7222 x310 to set an appointment.

Residents must come to the appointment with all required documents.  A list of required documents is available at http://www.211wny.org/resources/erie-county-covid-19-rent-relief/

Note that our Hope Center is following all New York State COVID-19 guidelines and a face mask is required in order to enter the facility.

To learn more about this program, please visit www.211wny.org

Kicking Off Our Fall Donation Drive!

Since many of our in-person volunteer opportunities have been placed on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re inviting our supporters to team up with their friends, family, and coworkers to participate in a drive to support our essential programs!
With the winter fast approaching, many of our programs serving homeless and low-income individuals and families are working to stock up on supplies needed to keep their clients clothed, warm and fed.
We’re also looking for school supplies for our Community Hub at the T.J. Dulski Center, which will provide daycare and academic support to working families whose children have to attend school remotely.
Please click here for a full list of our donation needs, as well as an option to make a monetary donation.
If you would like to coordinate a drop-off or pick-up, or would like more information, please contact Sarah Maurer, Development Director, at smaurer@urbanctr.org or (716) 893-7222 x232.
Thanks for your ongoing support for our agency and the clients we serve!