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November 5, 2020 - 3:45pm

Although Interim City Manager Rachael Tabelski believes the Genesee Area Family YMCA could play a significant role in the future of youth services in Batavia -- enabling the city to cut ties with Genesee County to fund a youth bureau executive director, an advisory group linked to the city isn’t convinced that is the best way to proceed.

A resolution to terminate the county’s youth bureau operating agreement with the city, a contract that calls for partial payment of the salary of Jocelyn Sikorski, Genesee/Orleans and City Youth Bureau executive director, came before two Genesee County Legislature committees this week.

On Monday, the Human Services Committee approved the measure, sending it to the Ways & Means Committee on Wednesday for a final vote before being forwarded to the full legislature for ratification.

Ways & Means decided to table the resolution, however, minutes after a letter from the City Youth Board opposing the dissolution of the inter-municipal agreement found its way onto The Batavian and, likely, into the hands of Ways & Means Committee Chair Marianne Clattenburg.

No one on the committee would comment when asked why the resolution was being tabled, but it is clear that the Youth Board’s opposition as well as the committee’s desire to let the city make the first move are the major reasons.

As a result:

  • The county is stuck in a holding pattern as the city leaders work through their differences. All indications point to a public discussion in some form or another at the City Council Business Meeting at 7 p.m. next Monday.
  • Tabelski is saying that there was no indication of any disagreement from the Youth Board with her proposal for the city to go in a different direction – looking at the YMCA to provide youth services -- and cut the $20,000 annual expense to help fund the executive director’s position.
  • The City Youth Board, in its letter, contends that it was not afforded an opportunity “to discuss alternative options with the Interim City Manager … prior to her decision.”

County Manager Matt Landers said he is dismayed over the situation.

“With any board or organization that dedicates so much time toward improving the community, it is obviously not a good thing to read the dissatisfaction and unhappiness of such a board,” he said. “As far as the county’s perspective, we’re a partner with the city and we certainly want to assist the city in meeting their needs with the youth. But at this point in time, it is important that we let the city decide how they want to move forward and then we can react accordingly.”

Landers said he and the legislature agree that the city should take the lead in this matter.

“We kind of put it in their hands … instead of the county going out in front and dissolving a contract. If it’s something the city really wants to do, then that’s something that they can lead out with first.”

He also said that it could be the right time to assess the agreement and explore other options.

Landers: Time for Reevaluation?

“At the end of the day, the relationship that we had with the city for a youth director was a good idea – and it was something put in place before my time as county manager, but it was a way to share services,” he said. “With any kind of agreement, you evaluate and see if there’s a different way to do it.”

Tabelski said she articulated a “different way” during an Oct. 27 meeting with the Youth Board, whose members are Dave Twichell, president; Paula Fischer, Nick Russo, Kathryn Fitzpatrick and Kristen Gloskowski. Al McGinnis serves as the City Council liaison.

“I had the pleasure of meeting with the Youth Board to talk about the situation the city finds itself in regarding budgeting amid COVID in our current budget year, the programming that we weren’t able to perform over the summer – summer recreation – and the strategic hiring freeze at the city,” Tabelski said. “We talked about what the upcoming budget for the city was shaping up to be, which is early in the budget process.”

Tabelski said she outlined big ticket items for which the city is responsible, such as snowplowing, public works, leaf collection, yard waste services, and police and fire response, and other services such as youth programs, economic development, contracting for the operation of the Falleti Ice Arena and maintaining athletic fields (including Dwyer Stadium) for residents to utilize.

“While Council won’t look at the budget until January, right now department heads are working with vendors on pricing and setting up contracts for services with the goal of providing a budget to City Council that remains within the tax cap,” she advised. “We are fiscally responsible to the citizens of the City of Batavia while still providing services that we know residents demand from the city.”

She said financial constraints and the impact of COVID-19 forced the cancellation of the 2020 summer recreation program and the ongoing closure of the Liberty Center for Youth afterschool location on Liberty Street.

Unable to Reopen Youth Center Yet

“The ability to reopen the Liberty Center for Youth is still taking time to make sure protocols are in place, barriers put up and bringing back staff. So right now, the YMCA and the city share staffing requirements for the Liberty Center for Youth to open,” she said.

Since the city has not been able to hire part-time employees (due to the hiring freeze), a discussion with the county ensued, leading to a proposal to terminate the joint agreement for youth bureau supervision.

“Knowing what our budget looks like for next year, I said that we were willing to look at that and the goal was to have the program coordinator and the assistant city manager, which is myself, take on any responsibilities needed to get the youth programs up and running, and to continue,” Tabelski said.

Currently, the city is in the midst of a job search for a permanent manager – Tabelski was hired last year as the assistant manager – and also has no youth program coordinator as Lydia Schauf resigned that position to accept another job.

“We were left basically with the commitment from the Y to help reopen the center but with no employees available to staff it,” she said.

Tabelski said she explained this to the Youth Board, emphasizing that it “was time to look at it to understand what the city might be able to do in an effort to save money and deliver the programs at the same level to the residents and potentially use the YMCA as part of the strategy that I am looking into.”

Tabelski Promotes Pact with YMCA

She said she has a high regard for the YMCA, calling it a “professional organization that has an expertise in providing recreational services in our community.”

“In my mind, it makes sense for us to look at this as a broader partnership,” she said, noting that she has kept City Council informed of her activities in relation to youth services. “This could be a huge win for the YMCA and the city.”

Tabelski said she is negotiating with the YMCA to gauge its “capacity and ability” to provide afterschool and summer recreation services for the city’s youth, and added that other communities, including Perry and Geneseo, contract with the YMCA to provide their summer programming.

She said she left the door open for City Youth Board members to contact her, Sikorski or McGinnis but, to her knowledge, that has not been done. She also said that she was not informed that a letter would be released to the media.

“At the meeting, the youth board members indicated they understood the financial hardship that the city was in, they gave examples of their workplaces having to cut and lay off people, and they indicated a willingness to continue to be involved in youth programming and services and make sure those programs continue,” Tabelski said.

The interim city manager is hopeful the city would be able to enhance its youth services by contracting with the YMCA. She also defended her stance.

“I think it is incumbent upon a good manager to look at every piece of the organization and especially when we’re faced with challenges such as COVID and employee shifting,” she said. “I guess it was a perfect storm to examine how we deliver this service and see if there was an agency, such as the YMCA, that would be more capable, have more capacity and more resources to actually deliver the program and possibly enhance that program on behalf of the city.”

Tabelski said the goal is to continue to provide youth services at no or at a minimal charge – especially for summer recreation – and is convinced there are “multiple ways that can be negotiated to do that.”

“Right now, we have a contract with City Church for the St. Anthony’s building for the Liberty Center for Youth that runs another four years,” she said. “I think that as we do some long-term planning, we certainly want to look at the interaction between the current site for afterschool and what potential there might be for the (YMCA) Healthy Living campus (one of the city’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative projects).”

Youth Board Reacts to 'Done Deal'

Fischer, responding this afternoon to emailed questions after talking with Twichell, said the City Youth Board’s intention was to send the letter with their concerns to City Council, but when The Batavian ran a story from the Human Services Committee meeting, it felt it was necessary to inform the public of what seemed to be a certainty.

“Once the information from the October 27th meeting was digested, it was apparent that the proposed changes to youth services would affect the quality of youth programming,” she said. “Many of the comments made by Rachel Tabelski and Jocelyn Sikorski were concerning. Ms. Tabelski was not aware of the differences between the County Youth Services and the City Youth Services. The City Youth Bureau provides direct youth programming and the County Youth Bureau does not.

“Despite the resignation of the only full-time city youth bureau employee, Ms. Sikorski was still in favor of abandoning the city program with no experienced staff remaining by ending the contract between the City and County with a year remaining. Also, Ms. Tabelski’s comment in the article, 'The city’s goal is to continue its youth programming – Liberty Center for Youth at the City Church St. Anthony’s campus on Liberty Street and the Summer Recreation Program – to the extent we that we can' was also alarming."

Fischer said the youth board did not contact Tabelski or Sikorski before sending the letter since the board is appointed by City Council and that Tabelski and Sikorski are employees and not voting members of the board.

As far as the Oct. 27 meeting is concerned, Fischer’s position is that Tabelski did receive comments from the board “regarding the outsourcing and charging for youth programming.”

“It was apparent that Ms. Sikorski had already went to the legislature and City Council with the proposal and was presented as a done deal,” she said. “When asked who would run the youth programming, the interim city manager shrugged her shoulders and said the assistant city manager, and the board asked who that would be and she said ‘me’. So, it was apparent that this was not well thought out after the resignation of the youth bureau coordinator. This sent up red flags that the youth programming was being phased out.”

The City Youth Board also does not agree with Tabelski’s plan to contract with the YMCA.

“The Board feels this would not be in the best interest of city youth,” Fischer said, adding that youth board members should be brought into the decision-making process.

“We are an advisory board. I would hope City Council would engage the City Youth Board on all matters going forward during these trying times,” she said. “The board would like to see services at the Liberty Center for Youth and the Summer Recreation Program resume once it is safe. These valuable services are less than 1 percent of the city’s budget.”

August 5, 2020 - 3:19pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in City Church, St. Anthony's, food distribution, covid-19, coronavirus.

City Church hosted another in a series of free, drive-thru food distributions at St. Anthony's this morning.

Video by Mo Schoen at Pixel Pro Video.

July 13, 2020 - 3:41pm

Press release:

The Salvation Army in partnership with The United Way, City Church, Byron-Bergen Central School District, Oakfield-Alabama Central School District and Foodlink would like to announce the schedule for the upcoming drive-thru food distributions.

When participating in this distribution please have your trunk/hatch/backseat cleared out to receive three to four boxes of food. Volunteers are not permitted to move your property due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Should you need to pick up for a friend or neighbor you may do so by providing their photo ID showing a separate address. Please wear a mask. 

You will remain in your car and volunteers will load the food.

Should you have any questions about a specific distribution contact that organization directly.

JULY

July 15 at 9 a.m. -- Northgate Free Methodist Church -- 8160 Bank Street Road, Batavia (585) 343-6284

July 22 at 9 a.m. -- Oakfield-Alabama CSD -- 7001 Lewiston Road, Oakfield (585) 948-5211

July 29 at 3 p.m. -- Byron-Bergen High School -- 6917 W. Bergen Road, Bergen (585) 343-6284

AUGUST

Aug. 5 at 9 a.m. -- City Church (St. Anthony’s)— 14 Liberty St., Batavia, (585) 343-6895

Aug. 12 at 9 a.m. -- Oakfield-Alabama CSD -- 7001 Lewiston Road, Oakfield (585) 948-5211

Aug. 19 at 3 p.m. -- Byron-Bergen High School -- 6917 W. Bergen Road, Bergen (585) 343-6284

Aug. 26 at 9 a.m. -- Northgate Free Methodist Church -- 8160 Bank Street Road, Batavia (585) 343-6284

SEPTEMBER

Sept. 2 at 9 a.m. -- City Church (St. Anthony’s)— 114 Liberty St., Batavia (585) 343-6895

July 8, 2020 - 1:31pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in City Church, St. Anthony's, batavia, news.

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City Church hosted another in a series of food distributions at St. Anthony's today.

Ryan Macdonald said the church will announce more food distribution days soon.

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June 28, 2020 - 1:34pm
posted by Billie Owens in Free food, food distribution, news, City Church, St. Anthony's.

The City Church is holding a drive-thru food distribution event at its St. Anthony’s site parking lot from 9 to 11 a.m. on the next two consecutive Wednesdays, July 1 and July 8.

Everyone is welcome!

St. Anthony's is located at 114 Liberty St. in the City of Batavia.

May 22, 2020 - 6:38pm

The pastor of the Batavia First Presbyterian Church said that while she understands the president’s call for the immediate reopening of places of worship, she said it is best that “we decide for ourselves” on how to move forward in the face of COVID-19.

President Trump earlier today issued a strong statement on the status of religious services, practically ordering governors to “do the right thing and allow these very important essential places of faith to open right now – for this weekend.”

In a 2 minute, 20 second address, after which he took no questions from the media, Trump said that churches, synagogues and mosques are “essential places that provide essential services,” and if state governors do not permit reopening, he will “override” them.

Rev. Roula Alkhouri, Ph.D., said that the congregation at First Presbyterian should be able to “decide for ourselves, making sure that it is safe for our neighbors and following the guidelines (set forth by New York State and the local health department).”

While believing that government does not have any authority over the church, Alkhouri said her church is under the authority of the Presbytery and adheres to a “collective wisdom” approach.

She also said she believes strongly in the separation of church and state, but she hasn’t felt oppressed by any of the rules stemming from the coronavirus outbreak.

“The guidelines are there to protect us,” she said. “If we chose to meet, we probably could, but is it ethical, does it show the love of Christ toward others? I don’t think so.”

Alkhouri said COVID-19 has hit close to home as a cousin died due to the virus and a sister, who lives in Dubai, just recovered after a 25-day battle.

“(Reopening the building) is not a simple decision; it’s very complex,” she said. “Yes, it is essential that we gather together to worship, but it also is essential that we don’t endanger anyone either.”

Rev. Martin Macdonald, pastor of City Church in Batavia, said he applauds the president’s assertion, but also supports the local officials who are monitoring the situation here.

“I appreciate and respect the president, but we still have to lend our ear to what’s happening in our own community,” he said, referring to the county and city managers, police chiefs and sheriff and health department director. “The president is giving the green light – saying you can reopen – but is it the right time yet? I’ll wait to hear what local authorities have to say.”

He said that he doesn’t think anyone is intentionally trying to keep churches closed, adding that “no one can stop the Gospel from being spread throughout the world.”

“Everyone knows how much I believe in the local church and love people to come together to worship … but I’ve found that our reach is greater than ever before through Facebook and social media outlets,” he said.

Macdonald said he looks to Scripture as his guide.

“The Bible says all things are permissible, but not all things are beneficial,” he said, paraphrasing I Cor. 10:23.

In New York, just yesterday Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that religious gatherings will be permitted under strict social guidelines, including no more than 10 people at a time with all participants having to wear masks.

Drive-in and parking lot services also will be allowed.

The governor also said he is forming an interfaith advisory council to formulate guidelines to open up services to a greater degree.

--------------

President Trump’s complete statement:

“At my direction, the CDC is issuing guidance for communities of faith … today I’m identifying houses of worship – churches, synagogues and mosques – as essential places that provide essential services. Some governors have deemed the liquor stores and abortion clinics as essential, but have left out churches and other houses of worship. It’s not right.

"So, I’m correcting this injustice and calling houses of worship essential. I call upon governors to allow our churches and places of worship to open right now. If there’s any question, they’re going to have to call me, but they’re not going to be successful in that call. These are places that hold our society together and keep our people united. The people are demanding to go to church, their synagogue and go to their mosque.

"Many millions of Americans embrace worship as an essential part of life. The ministers, pastors, rabbis, imams and other faith leaders will make sure that their congregations are safe as they gather and pray. I know them well. They love their congregations, they love their people, they don’t want anything bad to happen to them or anyone else.

"The governors need to do the right thing and allow these very important essential places of faith to open right now – for this weekend. If they don’t do it, I will override the governors. In America, we need more prayer, not less."

March 30, 2020 - 10:47am
posted by Howard B. Owens in City Church, live stream, video, news, covid-19, coronavirus.
Video Sponsor

We're doing a live interview with Marty Macdonald, pastor at City Church in Batavia.

March 22, 2020 - 11:59am
posted by Howard B. Owens in City Church, batavia, church, religion.

City Church streamed its service this morning live on social media. Here is the recording of that service.

December 10, 2019 - 3:05pm

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(Submitted photo: Above, Tom Mazurkiewicz, left, with City Church's Ryan Macdonald.) 

Chiropractor Tom Mazurkiewicz continues the tradition of Don Carroll, collecting toys for local children at his practice on Washington Avenue in the City of Batavia.

During business hours between now and end of the day Monday, Dec. 16, donors are welcome to bring unwrapped toys for ages 2 through 15. On Saturday, Dec. 14, Mazurkiewicz is offering free complementary adjustments with any toy donation between 7 and 10 a.m. Refreshments will be served.

Mazurkiewicz is partnering with City Church at T.F. Brown's Restaurant, so the toy donations will go to both places for distribution to local children at these respective events:

  • City Church will donate toys at its Christmas party on Dec. 17;
  • T.F. Brown's will donate toys at its Christmas party Dec. 19.
August 30, 2019 - 4:10pm

Press release:

Liberty Center for Youth, 114 Liberty St., is set to open to all youth ages 9-16 in the City of Batavia at 2:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 5th.

The Liberty Center for Youth (former St. Anthony’s school) is a joint agency project between the City of Batavia Youth Bureau, and the GLOW YMCA.

The focus of this project is to broaden the services offered to the youth of Batavia and have it conveniently located in one facility. The property is owned by City Church.

“Locating this facility in heart of the City, to serve our youth, is the right move,” said City Council President Eugene Jankowski Jr. “I believe that the enrollment for the City of Batavia Youth Bureau programs will continue to grow and this will be 'the place' where kids want to go.

"They will find a positive caring environment here lead by the City Youth Bureau.” 

The United Way of Genesee County has contributed $50,000 to the project and will be providing funding for an additional five years at $10,000 per year.

“The United Way is excited to partner with the City of Batavia and the GLOW YMCA to make this project a reality,” said Tammy Hathaway, regional director of the United Way of Genesee County.

“This project fits within our mission to motivate and organize people...through a unified, community-wide effort to mobilize resources and apply them to best serve the needs of Genesee County.”

The new location will offer a technology center with 10 new computers donated by Marchese Computer Products, 10 brand new tablets, and a smart board with wireless capabilities. The Liberty Center for Youth will provide free tutoring and homework assistance.

The facility will contain a game room with pool, air hockey, ping-pong, and foosball, as well as a four-square court and gaming room with a PS4 and Wii. 

The former cafeteria has undergone a major renovation turning it into a multipurpose room where students are encouraged to socialize, and grab a snack. A free snack will be provided daily to participants. The cafeteria will also be used for special events such as Art, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), Music, and other activity nights.

This location also offers a gymnasium to allow for year-round sports activities.

“This has been a dream of ours for a while,” said Lydia Schauf, program coordinator City of Batavia Youth Bureau. “We have wanted to find a central location where we could make the most impact on the Youth of our City, we wanted a place where they could feel comfortable to socialize and be active but most of all to provide a safe environment.”

The City of Batavia Youth Bureau has prided itself in offering free, safe and fun activities to youth and is excited and encouraged by this new endeavor. The staff of the Youth Bureau is capable, trained and ready to see a very successful first year of programming at the new location.

“It has been an amazing journey of learning, problem solving and growing as we have developed this partnership over the last three years," said Jeff Townsend, executive director of GLOW YMCA.

"Working together as a non-profit and government entity has been way less challenging than first thought. I appreciate this opportunity in my career to see a vision come to life. And I’m thankful to have worked alongside Jocelyn Sikorski on this project.” 

The Liberty Center will be open year-round. Hours of operation are as follows 2:30-6 p.m. during school and 1-6 p.m. during school breaks and summer vacation. 

Registration is free and participation forms can be found at 114 Liberty St. or on the City of Batavia website under the Youth Bureau Department.

If there are any questions please call Lydia Schauf of the City Youth Bureau at (585) 815-5308. Transportation will be offered afterschool to the facility but must be arranged through the Batavia Central School District.

August 30, 2019 - 12:41pm
Video Sponsor
August 23, 2019 - 11:53am

The 11th annual Musical Memories concert to benefit Crossroads House will be held at City Church on Saturday, Sept. 21.

The church is located at 210 E. Main St. in Downtown Batavia.

Doors open at 6 p.m. and music starts at 6:30.

Cost is $5 for general seating and $10 for reserved seating.

There will be a "Mega Raffle" on site.

Performances by:

  • Parkside Avenue Brass
  • The Hit Men
  • St. Joe's of Batavia Brass Ensemble
  • Hamburg Kingsmen Drum & Bugle Corps
  • Silver Leafs (from Canada!)
  • Mighty St. Joe's Alumni Drum & Bugle Corps

Advance tickets are available at Crossroads House, Roxy's Music Store, Valle Jewelers, and The Prospector in Attica.

All proceeds benefit Crossroads House, a comfort care home for the dying in Batavia.

August 21, 2019 - 11:48am

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With much to be done before next week’s ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house, Tuesday was not the time for a photo shoot of the soon-to-be-ready Liberty Center for Youth at the corner of Liberty Street and Central Avenue.

But it was an appropriate time for the major players in the project – Jocelyn Sikorski, Jeff Townsend and Rachel Hale – to give this reporter an inside look at what kids can expect when school begins on Sept. 4.

“We’re about 40 to 50 percent done (with the extensive renovations),” said Sikorski, executive director of the City of Batavia Youth Bureau, admitting to being somewhat weary from taking part in the move from the old youth bureau building on MacArthur Drive.

Sikorski also shared her excitement as the partnership between the City of Batavia and the Genesee Area Family YMCA (which evolved under the working title of Teen City) is ready to bear fruit at the former St. Anthony’s School, property which is owned by City Church.

“We’re really pleased with the way things are going,” she said. “This is going to be great for the kids.”

She was joined on the tour by Townsend, district executive director of the GLOW YMCA Inc., and Rachel Hale, the YMCA’s community development director.

The Liberty Center for Youth has a lot to offer for students from the ages of 9-16. Hours will be 2:30 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday during the school year and 1 to 6 p.m. during the summer.

The first floor will feature a tech center, video gaming room, four square room, table game room, boys and girls bathrooms, and cafeteria -- with stairs to the second floor located on both sides of the cafeteria.

A lift (elevator) also has been added per the Americans with Disabilities Act. It is located in an area that used to be the school’s kitchen.

Other ADA-required modifications include the placement of 28 security cameras inside and outside, and new doors and a ramp on the Central Avenue side of the building.

-- The tech center (25-foot by 20-foot) will offer 10 computer stations – five of them donated by Marchese Computer Products – along with tables for work space in what used to be the St. Anthony’s School library.

A smart board will be attached to one of the walls and computer tablets will be available for use by students. The room also will support activities such as job/life skills seminars and is designed for youth to interact on a 1:1 basis with staff or to work quietly in small groups.

-- The cafeteria (70x60) has been completely gutted and renovated, and is equipped with round tables and chairs. It will function as a room for arts & crafts, board games and team building and where kids can have their snacks.

“You can call this the ‘Blue Room’,” Sikorski said, noting the couple shades of blue paint on the wall.

This is where all the children will reconvene at the end of each day, around 5:30 p.m., to make sure everyone is accounted for during cleanup time, Sikorski said.

-- The video gaming room (12x20) and four square room (20x20) are located behind the south wall of the cafeteria and provide further entertainment.

A flat screen TV and gaming systems will be available on a rotating basis for a predetermined amount of time, with the equipment under lock and key.

The four square room is ready to go, with the rules prominently displayed on one of the walls.

-- The carpeted table game room (20x27) is across the hall from the cafeteria. It will offer pool, ping-pong, air hockey, foosball and more.

The second floor holds the check-in station and a large gymnasium (basketball court) that can be used for volleyball, floor hockey and other group activities.

Hale, who during an internship donated hundreds of hours writing grants and setting up the curriculum, said the youth center received an abundance of sports equipment and games through the Ralph Wilson Legacy Fund and the Rochester Community Health Foundation.

Students will enter through the main doors on the Liberty Street side of the building and immediately be “checked-in” at the window of a small office, which also can be used for one-on-one discussion, parental meetings and as a space for those with additional social needs.

After check-in, kids go directly into the gymnasium and from there can go downstairs if they wish.

The Liberty Center for Youth project has been the beneficiary of numerous grants, led by a $100,000 pledge from the Genesee United Way. The City and YMCA have entered into a lease agreement with owner City Church.

Hale said the success of the joint venture is a proud achievement for the community.

“It’s encouraging to watch these two entities come together … to create that space for individuals,” she said. “I’m very excited to see what will become of this new youth center.”

In preparation for its opening, the Liberty Center for Youth staff has participated in team-building exercises and will undergo CPR and first-aid training, sensitivity training and child abuse indicator training, Sikorski said.

Both Sikorski and Townsend will address the public at the ribbon-cutting ceremony from noon to 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 29, and will be there later that day (5 to 6:30 p.m.) to greet parents and grandparents at an open house.

Photo at top -- Ready to greet students at the check-in window of the Liberty Center for Youth (former St. Anthony's School) are these friendly faces -- Rachel Hale, left; Jeff Townsend and Jocelyn Sikorski. Photo by Mike Pettinella.

August 5, 2019 - 10:03am

liberty_center_logo.pngCalling it a “mad dash to the finish line,” City of Batavia Youth Bureau Executive Director Jocelyn Sikorski is counting down the days to the opening of the Liberty Center for Youth at the former St. Anthony’s School on Liberty Street.

A joint venture of the City of Batavia and the Genesee Area Family YMCA, the Liberty Center for Youth – until now known as the Teen City project – will provide a variety of services and activities for students from the ages of 9-16, with hours of 2:30 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday during the school year and 1 to 6 p.m. during the summer.

It will replace the current Batavia Youth Bureau on MacArthur Drive, which will be closing its doors on Aug. 16, Sikorski said.

“We will start the move to the Liberty Street site (owned by City Church) on Aug. 19 and a kickoff event is planned for Aug. 29,” she said. “The actual launch (for kids) will take place on the first day of school (Sept. 4)."

Programs for youth will take place on the first and second floors while administrative offices will be housed on the third floor.

Sikorski, who also is in charge of the Genesee-Orleans Youth Bureau, and Jeff Townsend, district executive director of GLOW YMCA Inc., continue to oversee the ambitious venture, which stemmed from the results of a United Way needs assessment survey several years ago.

“The concept of Teen City came from the efforts of Erik Fix, who was director of the Genesee United Way at the time,” Sikorski recalled. “He put together a community needs assessment, with the results stating the need for more services for youth and teens. Erik was instrumental in getting the other players to the table.”

Fix, who now manages an M&T Bank branch in Rochester, said the needs assessment survey was conducted in 2013 when the United Way was “looking at who we were funding and why we were funding.”

“What we found was that there wasn’t enough (services) for that age group (teens and preteens),” he said. “So we took a look at boys and girls clubs and, after much deliberation, felt that the youth bureau and the YMCA were logical partners.”

He said they considered several locations before deciding on the former St. Anthony’s School.

“It’s a great opportunity to bring some life back to that part of the city and to restore the use of that building,” Fix said.

Townsend credited the United Way for igniting the spark that has led to a true community collaboration.

“This project would not be possible without the generosity of the United Way,” he said. “They not only did the needs assessment survey but they also put their money where their mouth was – and helped us generate much-needed additional support.”

Indeed, as the local United Way put up $50,000 for renovations of the building and has pledged another $10,000 annually to sustain the program.

Other contributions and grants have been provided by Bullet Aid, Rochester Regional Health, Ralph Wilson Legacy Funds, Rotary Club of Batavia, NYS Education Department, State Aid Recreation Program, YMCA of the USA and Marchese Computer Products.

The Genesee County Department of Social Services is funding special programming such as job coaching, life skills training, foster care support and peer relations.

Partnerships also have been forged with Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, Genesee County Probation, Liberty Partnership at Genesee Community College, Batavia City Fire and Police departments, Richmond Memorial Library, GO ART! and Genesee County Business Education Alliance.

Even the cool logo (inset above) was created and donated by local artist Heather Ellsworth.

Both Sikorski and Townsend said opportunities exist for additional businesses that wish to promote activities for teens to get on board.

Townsend said the Teen City committee supports the new name as it “differentiates” itself from the landlord, City Church.

“Teen City may have tied it (the youth center) too closely to City Church,” he said. “This separates it from church functions. We don’t want City Church staff getting calls from parents concerning issues with the youth center.”

The start-up and subsequent daily operation of the Liberty Center for Youth are being split 50/50 by the City Youth Bureau and YMCA.

“We reduced costs by sharing the load -- mirroring our staffing, along with program expenses and what we have to offer,” Sikorski said, adding that the agencies have agreed to a five-year memorandum of understanding.

They’ve also worked together on grant funding, Townsend said, noting that the best thing is that it is free to the students.

When students arrive at the new youth center – busing will be provided by the Batavia City School District from the high school, middle school and John Kennedy Intermediate School – they will find the following:

-- A homework/technology room with 10 computer stations. (A “quiet room” until 4:30 p.m., Sikorski said.)

-- Cafeteria set up for arts & crafts, board games, skill-building activities and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) projects.

-- A game room for ping-pong, foosball, air hockey, pool and table games.

-- Four-square and video game rooms.

-- Second-floor gymnasium.

Snacks will be provided on a daily basis, Sikorski said, but must stay in the cafeteria. The youth center’s code of conduct will align with that of the school district and must be signed by both the child and the parent/guardian.

Much renovation has been done to get the building in shape, Townsend said, including the placement of 28 security cameras inside and outside, and making it compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

As far as staffing is concerned, Sikorski said the ratio of employees to youth will be at most 1:15, and both classrooms will always have an employee on duty.

The on-site staff of at least six part-timers will be supervised by Lydia Schauf, City Youth Bureau program coordinator, and Charitie Bruning, YMCA child care director.

Sikorski said the school district intends to find a use for the existing youth bureau building and pay all related expenses.

July 31, 2019 - 7:06pm
posted by James Burns in batavia, news, City Church, Eight Days of Hope.

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Volunteers from City Church and the national outreach program Eight Days of Hope went to two homes in Batavia -- one on Warren Street, the other on Cherry -- and made numerous repairs to the structures, at no charge, for the residents. City Church identified the homeowners who could use the assistance.

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May 8, 2019 - 2:23pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in St. Anthony's, City Church, batavia, video.
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Last night, I stopped by St. Anthony's with no intention of covering anything. All I had with me was my iPhone but when I walked in, dancers from Divine Dance Studio were just about to start performing and then I watched Ryan Macdonald talk about "doing what you can do to make a difference" before giving away a bike to Alex Baker, so here are two short videos.

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