Letter from the Executive Director

Dear Friends of MUC,
I have been thinking a lot recently about transition. Clearly, I have been experiencing a transition the past two months as I have assumed this new role with MUC. The agency, of course, has been in the process of transition for some time. The immediate neighborhood as well, as the City at large has transitioned a great deal over decades and more noticeably in the past several years. And our nation, due to COVID-19 and many other factors is currently in a period of great and historic transition.
Transition is not a bad thing, but it is also not inherently good and can often be associated with pain. Positive change and transition which trends towards growth and success requires thoughtful planning, engagement of stakeholders, commitment and the ability to adapt. It means recognizing and respecting the past while addressing the needs of the present, and anticipating and being prepared to meet the needs of the future.
I believe that this neighborhood, City, Country and especially this organization are poised to transition to a stable, sustainable and vibrant future. As long as we remain committed to values such as open communication and dialogue, a belief that all members of society are entitled to a life of dignity and respect, and understanding that our impact collectively is more than that of ourselves alone, I believe that brighter days are indeed ahead.
Sincerely,
Ben Hilligas

Eviction Prevention Funds Available Through STAND UP Buffalo

The Matt Urban Center, in partnership with the City of Buffalo’s STAND UP Buffalo program and 211 WNY, is providing rental assistance to at-risk residents who have been economically impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Arrears assistance for a maximum of three months and up to $4500 can be provided to those experiencing a COVID-19 hardship who meet income requirements.
Community members who are interested in applying to this program must first contact 211 WNY for initial intake and eligibility assessment. Those deemed eligible will then be referred to staff at our Matt Urban Hope Center. For more information, please visit www.211wny.org 

Request for Proposals: Bus Transportation Services

The Matt Urban Center operates several after school programs in the City of Buffalo. We are seeking a qualified contractor to assist in bus transportation services from the program location (385 Paderewski Dr.) to each individual student’s home.

Please click here to view the full Request for Proposals.

Proposals will be accepted until Friday, March 19th at 3:30 P.M.

Via U.S. Mail or delivery to:
Will Smith, Security
Lt. Col. Matt Urban Human Services Center of WNY
1081 Broadway
Buffalo, NY 14212

Questions on this request for qualifications may be directed to ztenhuisen@urbanctr.org or to (716) 893 – 7222 ext: 219.

Remembering Earl Blacksheare

The Matt Urban Center suffered a tremendous loss with the recent passing of Mr. Earl Blacksheare.
Earl was the heart and soul of our Hope Center, where he worked for over a decade, performing intake with clients and making referrals to get them connected with the resources they needed. Earl’s big booming voice was the first people heard when they called the Hope Center, and his was the first face they saw when they came in for services. Earl was a bright light for many, helping guide them to the programs and services that they needed to improve their situations, whether it was assistance finding housing, benefits, or a hot meal.
Not only did Earl have a tremendous positive impact on those who came to the Hope Center for help – he also made a lasting impression on the people he worked with every day. Some of our staff shared their remembrances of Earl, in honor of his memory and their time spent working alongside him.
Earl was part of our family. Although you don’t come to work to gain friends, you kind of become family and learn to depend on them for a lot of different things. Earl left a blueprint for us and how we should treat people. We’re just going to miss him.
-Kevin Glover
Every day for the last 4 and a half plus years, I’ve walked past Earl at his desk. We always had a very similar exchange when he first got to work for the day.
“Hey Earl, how’s it going?”
“I’m just groovy man, just groovy.”
“Groovy!”
I’ve missed that exchange every single day since he’s been gone. I remind myself every time I walk past his desk that Earl is “just groovy man, just groovy.”
Earl always knew it was me walking by because he always said I was running through the Hope Center, and that I moved too fast and didn’t know how to slow down. But if I was wearing a different pair of shoes compared to normal, he would stop me and ask me what I had on my feet. He was used to me wearing sneakers and being fairly quiet when I walked past him, but when winter crept in and I switched to boots, I had a whole new sound. He’d ask me to describe what I had on my feet to him so that way he could associate that sound with me coming up the hallway in my boots.  
-Skylar Diamond
Earl always said “Good morning Melly Mel” and this was when I was walking into the building from behind him. I always wondered how he knew it was me before I even spoke to him or said anything. He will be greatly missed at Polonia Hall.
-Patricia Chism-Melvin
I didn’t work directly with Earl every day, and most of my interaction was over the phone, but even with calls that had no easy answer he was up for the challenge and ready to assist in any way. We’d often hang up with no real solution, only for my phone to ring a few minutes later with a bit more information that would point me in the right direction. You could hear his smile through every call.
-Maya Shermer
Earl was such a kind, sincere person, and that came out in every interaction I had with him – from those phone calls where he would reach out seeking information for a client, but always made sure to take a few moments to find out how I was doing, or when I would say farewell on my way out of the Hope Center and he would say “alright Sarah, you take care and be safe out there.” The Hope Center and the Matt Urban Center as a whole was made a better place because of Earl’s presence.
-Sarah Maurer

BURA Launches “STAND UP Buffalo” Initiative

Mayor Byron W. Brown recently announced the launch of the Small Business, Tenants, And Neighborhood Development Underwriting Program or “STAND UP Buffalo” Initiative. The initiative is comprised of a series of direct assistance grants and programs that will allow residents and business owners to respond to the unique challenges the global Coronavirus Pandemic has caused in Buffalo and cities across the nation.

The Matt Urban Center is proud to be one of the community agencies that are partnering with the City to deliver critical services to City residents and small businesses. Other collaborating agencies include:

2-1-1 WNY
Restoration Society
Belmont Housing Resources
Center for Elder Law and Justice
Catholic Charities
Buffalo Urban League
Old First Ward Community Association
Heart of the City Neighborhoods
University District Community Development Association
Housing Opportunities Made Equal
Neighborhood Legal Services
Westminster Economic Development Initiative

“The Matt Urban Center provides a wide range of services to the East Side of Buffalo including, home repairs and weatherization, affordable housing development, multiple programs aimed at addressing homelessness as well as robust programs for youth and seniors,” said Ben Hilligas, Executive Director. Our mission is to provide programs that revitalize neighborhoods, serve families, and change lives. When I hear ‘STAND UP Buffalo’ I immediately think of the strength and resilience of our community and the solidarity we demonstrate and represent as citizens of the City of Buffalo. We thank the Mayor for his commitment to fair and equal housing in the City of Buffalo.”

Read the full press release with more information about the STAND UP Buffalo Initiative by clicking here.

Afterschool Programming Returns to Polonia Hall

We’re excited that in-person afterschool programming will return to our Polonia Hall site at 385 Paderewski Drive, beginning March 1, 2021. We will be following COVID-19 guidelines and limiting the number of participants in the program for safety reasons.

To fill out an application to participate in the afterschool program, click here.

Please contact Justin Larke at jlarke@urbanctr.org or at (716) 893-7222 x311 for more information.

Donor Spotlight: The Sengupta Family

This month we’re highlighting The Sengupta Family – Sourav, Elizabeth, and their two daughters. After touring our Hope Center facility and learning about what we do last year, the family made a very generous personal donation to our Homeless Outreach team, including monies that their daughters had saved up in their piggy bank. Coupled with their donation from last year, the Sengupta Family has provided over $24,500 to support our efforts to meet our homeless clients where they’re at and provide support and resources to keep them safe.
Our Homeless Outreach team is excited to be able to purchase some specialized supplies that they don’t have consistent access to, such as larger sizes of clothing for clients, boots and shoes, storage for donations, and transportation passes.
A tremendous thank you to the Sengupta Family for their generosity and compassion for the clients we serve!

Thank You to the Buffalo Bills!

We wanted to congratulate our beloved Buffalo Bills on an amazing season! This team has given hope to so many this year, including the Matt Urban Center and the clients we serve. We also want to give a special shout-out to the following Bills players for their acts of generosity during the holiday season:
Matt Barkley and his family made a $10,000 donation to our Hope House women and children’s shelter to make Christmas brighter for our residents (their second donation in 2020!) Matt also teamed up with local apparel company Buf on Weck to sell Buffalo Renegade shirts and hoodies, with part of the proceeds benefitting our organization.
Josh Norman and his Starz 24 Foundation donated blankets, socks, hats, gloves, hand sanitizer and hand warmers to our Homeless Outreach team to help take care of their clients during the cold winter months.
Micah Hyde’s IMagINe For Youth Foundation’s Kicks for Kids initiative donated 25 backpacks filled with Nike Sneakers, Nike Shorts, candy and Buffalo Bills gear to the children in our youth after-school program and those staying at our Hope House shelter.
The Bills’ Women’s Association also provided funds for a beautiful catered holiday meal for our Hope House residents and staff to enjoy together to celebrate the season.
We’re so grateful to have a hometown team that not only plays with tremendous heart, but also keeps our community close to its heart. We’re always rooting for them. GO BILLS!

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.

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.