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Salvation Army to reassess Genesis House shelter

The Salvation Army of Greater Rochester is reassessing its co-ed emergency shelter for youth and will be referring homeless youth ages 16 and 17 to the Center for Youth and other local agencies, the organization said Tuesday.

“Genesis House has been a viable and successful program for many years,” said Major Debbie Burr, director of Monroe County operations for the Salvation Army. “But the landscape has changed, especially during the past 18 months, and we have an opportunity to not only reassess how the Salvation Army’s resources are used here in Rochester but to enhance many of our other programs as well.”

The Salvation Army’s Genesis House opened in 1981 and has been a co-ed emergency shelter for runaway and homeless youth ages 16 to 20 in the Rochester community for four decades.

“Current Genesis House residents 18 years of age or older, as well as any new potential residents who come to us for help, will be transitioned to one of the Salvation Army of Greater Rochester’s three homeless shelters based on need and demographics,” Burr said.

The Salvation Army will form a strategic planning group to determine the greatest needs in the southwest quadrant of Rochester where Genesis House currently resides, and how the organization can best meet those needs, officials said.

During the pandemic, the Rochester chapter of the Salvation Army has seen a more than 50 percent increase in need for food assistance and has added two food pantry distribution sites.

The need in Rochester for permanent supportive housing (PSH), which pairs housing with case management and supportive services, also has increased since the beginning of the pandemic and the Salvation Army currently is looking to add these services to the area.

“This has been a challenging time for everyone in our community – especially for those who come to the Salvation Army in need of help,” Burr explained. “The Salvation Army’s mission of Doing the Most Good will continue as we provide resources for those in need in our community even after the pandemic is over.”

The Salvation Army is an evangelical part of the universal Christian church established in London in 1865. Nearly 30 million Americans receive assistance from the Salvation Army each year.

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Follow Velvet Spicer on Twitter: @Velvet_Spicer

LeChase, Wegmans partner on initiative to help nonprofits

Built United crews work on Center for Youth's new facility at 797 Monroe Ave. (provided)
Built United crews work on Center for Youth’s new facility at 797 Monroe Ave. (provided)

LeChase Construction Services LLC has partnered with Wegmans Food Markets Inc. on an initiative that will directly impact nonprofits and the people they serve in the Greater Rochester region.

Built United was launched to provide direct construction and building services to an initial group of 11 local not-for-profits.

“Last year was challenging for everyone. When we started talking to United Way, LeChase wanted to do more to help rebuild our community,” said LeChase CEO and Managing Partner Bill Goodrich. “Built United allows us to put our strengths to use, impacting the lives of those in our community. We are thankful to be able to do this with our team of skilled volunteers and donated time and resources from so many of our valued suppliers and industry partners.”

Goodrich also serves as the United Way of Greater Rochester Inc.’s 2021 campaign chairman.

Built United will cover 26 projects in the region ranging from light construction and landscaping to painting and general beautification, officials said. Projects were chosen from local nonprofits with a capital improvement need that aligned with available resources.

In total, the projects were chosen from nearly 150 submissions. When complete this summer, Built United’s impact will total roughly $250,000 in support and materials and 3,400 volunteer hours.

“The past 15 months have put on full display the essential role our community’s nonprofits play to support our region,” United Way President and CEO Jaime Saunders said. “To deliver on their important missions, our nonprofits need to be supported from the ground up, and that is what we are seeing today. LeChase and Wegmans have stepped up with Built United to give of their talents, expertise and treasure for the good of our community.”

Built United sites include:
• Boys & Girls Clubs of Geneva
• Boys & Girls Clubs of Rochester
• Center for Youth (multiple locations)
• Charles Settlement House
• Community Place of Greater Rochester
• Family Promise of Ontario County
• Geneva Lake Front Childcare
• The Salvation Army (multiple locations)
• Southwest Area Neighborhood Association Inc. (S.W.A.N.)
• Volunteers of America
• YMCA of Greater Rochester Inc.

“When LeChase asked us to join them in Built United, we were excited for the opportunity to support United Way and its agencies in this new and impactful way,” said Wegmans Supply Chain Systems Manager Dave Texter. “We are proud to be a longtime supporter of United Way and the work they do to help our communities thrive.”

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
Follow Velvet Spicer on Twitter: @Velvet_Spicer

YMCA to close two branches

The YMCA of Greater Rochester Inc. plans to shutter two branches as a result of stagnant membership growth and effects of COVID-19 on the economy, although one of those branches will be transferred to the Center for Youth.

The Monroe Family Branch on Monroe Avenue and the Victor Active Family Center will remain closed when the time comes for YMCA to reopen its branches. But in a move to help another Rochester nonprofit, the YMCA will transfer the Monroe Avenue property to the Center for Youth for $1.

George Romell
George Romell

“There is never a good time to close a chapter in our history,” said YMCA President and CEO George Romell on Friday. “Being able to transition this building to another vital community nonprofit ensures its legacy within the city. And that is the Y’s mission at work — supporting community for all any way possible, even if that means we step aside.”

Most full-time staff members from the Monroe Family Branch have been redeployed to positions within the YMCA, officials said.

The Monroe Family Branch was established in 1923, but the facility has struggled, even in the best of times, officials said. For at least the last decade, the Monroe Y has failed to grow to meet the community’s growing needs. Branches either produce a surplus or a deficit, and the Monroe Y had for some time been operating at a deficit.

Officials also noted that the Monroe Avenue facility did not allow the organization to serve the needs of its members appropriately given its size and configuration, as well as limited parking. More than half of the existing members at that location have transitioned to using the Y’s larger, more modern facilities.

In looking at its options, the Y could have boarded up the building, sold it to a developer or found an interested community partner. Officials said the only option the Y was willing to pursue was to seek a community partnership.

In fact, the pandemic has created a crisis for both the Center for Youth and the YMCA. The need to transition the building was immediate as the Y could not sustain it and the Center for Youth cannot safety reopen in its current location and serve youth in the same way it has for nearly 50 years.

“This is the result of a longtime relationship between the two organizations, built on mutual respect and shared vision for a better Rochester community for all,” said Elaine Spaull, executive director of the Center for Youth. “We are looking forward to creating spaces in this historic building that will reflect our own mission of embracing all people, and we hope our actions honor the Y’s legacy.”

Private foundations, individuals and corporations, as well as the United Way Synergy Fund, will help support the transition financially. The Center for Youth will continue to operate its facility at 905 Monroe Ave. and will use the YMCA facility for additional programming for youths. The agency provides counseling, street outreach programs, emergency shelter, transitional living programs, prevention education and more.

“We remain steadfast in our commitment to serve the community in the urban core through our Southwest Branch in the 19th Ward, our renovated historic Maplewood Branch in the 10th Ward and the Carlson MetroCenter downtown,” Romell said. “Besides our three membership facilities, we also have a strong Community Services division that impacts the lives of more than 1,000 youth and their families across the city of Rochester through programs that stretch beyond the walls of a traditional YMCA branch and directly into our city neighborhoods. The CSD model provides the ideal structure to make deep and lasting impact for thousands more in Rochester than the Y has ever previously reached.”

Officials said in the coming months, the Y will determine the future operating use of the Victor Active Family Center building. Members of the Monroe and Victor branches will be able to use all other YMCA facilities. The Passport membership will be valid for 12 months from the time YMCA opens its Rochester operations.

When the Y receives clearance to reopen following the pandemic, it plans to open six branches first including Corning Family YMCA, Eastside Family YMCA, Maplewood Family YMCA, Southwest Family YMCA, Schottland Family YMCA and Westside Family YMCA. The remaining five branches will open five weeks later.

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Follow Velvet Spicer on Twitter: @Velvet_Spicer

Homelessness tackled by hundreds at symposium

More than 6,100 people experience homelessness annually in Monroe County, and on any given day, 850 people are without a home to call their own.

Speakers and organizers of the 15th Western New York Homeless Symposium (Photo by Velvet Spicer)
Speakers and organizers of the 15th Western New York Homeless Symposium (Photo by Velvet Spicer)

“While these numbers are staggering, they do not include all the people who are experiencing housing instability: people who are doubled up, people who are paying well in excess of 30 percent of their income for housing,” said Connie Sanderson, executive director of Partners Ending Homelessness, formerly Continuum of Care. “We need to work as partners to reduce barriers to accessing housing. We need to support efforts to create additional affordable housing resources in the community, and support other community initiatives that are addressing poverty, living wages, timely access to healthcare and treatment, just to name a few.”

Sanderson’s message was delivered Tuesday to hundreds of business and organizational leaders, and those on the front lines of the homelessness crisis in the area during the 15th annual Western New York Homeless Symposium – Bridges: From Barriers to Solutions. Hosted by the Homeless Services Network—a 60-member network composed of providers and agencies that offer services to homeless individuals—and held at Rochester’s Hyatt Regency downtown, attendees at the full-day event heard from a number of speakers on topics ranging from coordinating programs and services to end homelessness to opiate trends and serving those who served our country.

“At the center, we say it’s not how you stand, it’s the stand you take,” said Elaine Spaull, executive director of the Center for Youth and city councilwoman. “Remember, you may be the only person who believes in a homeless person. You may be the only person who looks at them and says you matter to me. You are a human being and you matter to me. That’s what it takes.”

Channeling noted author and Economic Policy Institute Fellow Richard Rothstein—who spoke in Rochester this summer on how government practices, including redlining, created and continue to maintain segregated neighborhoods—PathStone Corp. CEO Stuart Mitchell noted the importance of learning about Rochester’s historic segregation when confronting homelessness.

“As we think about what we’re working on today, I think we also have to think about how it is that we became the segregated communities we are today,” Mitchell said in his welcome speech. “Let’s also take time to think about those structures, those systems, the ways in which we have created barriers.”

“This problem stares us in the face. It transcends bricks and mortar. It defies easy solutions and requires a comprehensive approach,” keynote speaker Richard Dollinger said. “Only with this approach can we begin to restore in the minds of individuals a sense that they too have a place to call home.” (Photo by Velvet Spicer)
“This problem stares us in the face. It transcends bricks and mortar. It defies easy solutions and requires a comprehensive approach,” keynote speaker Richard Dollinger said. “Only with this approach can we begin to restore in the minds of individuals a sense that they too have a place to call home.”
(Photo by Velvet Spicer)

The event’s keynote speaker, Judge Richard Dollinger, pointed to our long history of recognizing the importance of home: from stories in the Bible to literature to Dorothy’s credo in “The Wizard of Oz” that “there’s no place like home.”

“In short, home is among the most powerful images in our culture and who we consider ourselves. And regardless of our race, creed, color, national origin or any other factor, we all recognize that home is where your heart is,” Dollinger told the audience. “With all of these powerful, life-sustaining images, how is it that we, the culture that celebrates home, tolerate homelessness?”

Homelessness, Dollinger said, is not just about place, a shelter, a roof over someone’s head, a meal in the morning and a smile before going to bed.

“All of these gestures are critically important and they are part of shaping our response to this national tragedy. But the real issue is that homelessness, in my view, is about identity, and how individuals from all walks of life can find that identity ebbing away in their lives until they no longer recall, remember or even envision what a home is all about,” he explained.

Tuesday’s event was sponsored by several local organizations including Partners Ending Homelessness, the Center for Youth, Coordinated Care Services Inc., PathStone and others. Some 20 workshops were offered for program staff, management and consumers.

Dollinger said more families experience homelessness nationwide than in any other industrialized nation, by some estimates 500,000 annually. A typical homeless family is composed of a single mother and her two young children, he noted. One in 30 American children experience homelessness annually, and 51 percent are under the age of five.

“This problem stares us in the face. It transcends bricks and mortar. It defies easy solutions and requires a comprehensive approach,” Dollinger said. “Only with this approach can we begin to restore in the minds of individuals a sense that they too have a place to call home.”

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
Follow Velvet Spicer on Twitter: @Velvet_Spicer

Designers to pay tribute to Louise Slaughter, Rochester architecture during Fashion Week

Fashion Week raises hundreds of thousands of dollars annually for the Center for Youth. This year’s extravaganza will celebrate the late Congresswoman Louise Slaughter and Rochester’s iconic buildings. (Provided)
Fashion Week raises hundreds of thousands of dollars annually for the Center for Youth. This year’s extravaganza will celebrate the late Congresswoman Louise Slaughter and Rochester’s iconic buildings. (Provided)

Because it’s the 10th anniversary, the flashy Fashion Week Rochester (Oct. 14-19) had to shake things up a bit.

The five-day extravaganza, which raises hundreds of thousands of dollars each year for the Center for Youth, became a six-day event, starting with a children’s show on Monday. And now on Friday night a Rochester-themed show, “Runway to Rochester,” is scheduled, featuring two special collections.

What could be more Rochesterian than a tribute to the Kentucky-born Louise M. Slaughter, who represented Rochester in the House of Representatives for 31 years?

“Runway to Rochester,” will include a collection of women’s suits and clothing created by a Hickey Freeman executive and clothing designer in tribute to the late congresswoman. Ten outfits — most of them suits with skirts or pants — will be exhibited to pay honor to the woman who saved Rochester’s best known clothing manufacturer more than once.

The show will also include a joint effort by local architects and interior designers, as well as support from national materials suppliers to create structures and clothing inspired by buildings in Rochester. Local chapters of the professional organizations representing both of those groups are working together on a concept that has been featured in other city’s fashion shows. But here, expect to see something reminiscent of the winged Time Square building, the First Federal Plaza, the Frederick Douglass-Susan B. Anthony Bridge, the former Rochester Savings Bank building, the Strasenburgh Planetarium and other iconic Rochester structures.

Jeffery Diduch, vice president of technical design at Hickey Freeman, had promised to make Slaughter a jacket after seeing an interview with her in a documentary about the history of Rochester’s garment industry. In that documentary, “Tailor Made,” Slaughter noted how her male colleagues in Congress often flashed the linings of their suits to her when passing, acknowledging they wore suits made by in her home district by Hickey Freeman. Diduch met Slaughter when she visited the factory to see the Olympic uniforms created by the menswear manufacturer and tried on one of the jackets.

But Slaughter died not long after her visit, and before Diduch could make good on his promise.

“I like to do what I say I’m going to do, so I felt bad about not making it,” Diduch said. Slaughter “was really somebody who did help the company out a lot. So it was important to do something to honor her memory.”

He approached Fashion Week to see if he could make an outfit or two as a tribute to Slaughter. But Elaine Spaull, the city councilor who also is executive director of the Center for Youth, was thinking bigger. She thought of Slaughter’s immediate support for the homeless (including some of the center’s clientele) once she got to Congress in the 1980s. She also thought of her involvement in finding federal aid to keep Hickey Freeman from closing down.

“She basically saved the factory twice,” Spaull said of Slaughter. “She used to say she was their Washington office.”

With Spaull’s encouragement, Diduch’s one or two outfits became an entire collection, “For Louise.”

He’s having all the outfits made in a winter white shade of Italian wool crepe.

“It went from a very small idea to a big thing in the space of 48 hours,” Diduch said, after Spaull quickly gained approval from others working with Fashion Week and from Slaughter’s family.

The decisions to go with an entire collection were made just before the Hickey Freeman plant closed for summer break, so Diduch himself cut and sewed some of the garments — something he often does when new garments are being created — during his vacation. He’s having some of the garments made at the factory now that it’s up and running again.

Diduch has designed the garments like menswear in that they have sufficiently wide seams to allow for alterations over the lifetime of the clothing.

“We make luxury clothing. It’s not inexpensive,” and should be able to be altered for the wearer as her body changes over time, he said.

The line should appeal to women of various ages, Diduch said, and the models will reflect different ages and body types.

“Some of the pieces were designed to appeal to somebody like Louise … some of them were just made for show,” Diduch said.

And what about after the show? That has to be worked out. Diduch has purchased crepe in black, navy and red as well as the white that will be shown in the Fashion Week show. People who are interested can contact him through a web page that has been established for the Louise Slaughter Collection.

One of the outfits is inspired by the Times Square building. (Provided)
One of the outfits is inspired by the Times Square building. (Provided)

At the same time that the Louise Collection was coming together, Jason Streb, an architect with the CPL firm who is president of the Rochester chapter of the American Institute of Architects, reached out to Fashion Week to see if designers from that realm could participate in some way.

When Blynn Nelson, an interior designer who works for the CJS Architects, heard about Streb’s idea, she came up with the way the architects’ professional organization and the Rochester chapter of a similar organization for interior designers, the International Interior Design Association, could participate. She suggested something she’d seen in other larger cities before: a product runway.

“Outfits are curated and designed from raw materials that vendors supply to (architects and interior designers.) They really have to create a dress or garment out of carpet, for example, or tile,” Nelson said.

But some of the materials may be unrecognizable on the runway. Streb said carpeting, for instance, might be stripped of all the cushy materials so the designer can use the flexible, shimmery backing on the underside.

Nelson said commercial products meet different standards than those used in home construction, so the carpet backing can be quite different than what homeowners are familiar with and have the appearance of leather.

Streb said 12 teams of interior designers and architects are participating. Each team has been assigned two product suppliers, one providing hard material, and one providing soft. Some are local, like glass artist Nancy Gong, who is working with the team inspired by the planetarium, but many of them are national companies.

“It’s kind of a wild concept that has never been done here,” Streb said.

Marrying the product runway idea with a community’s local architecture is unique to Rochester, Nelson said.

It’s unlikely any of the garments will go into production after the show, but Nelson said the organizers are looking for a gallery to show them again.

Megan Mundy, the “chief fashion officer” for Fashion Week, said she is often asked after each Fashion Week how the organizers will top the show next time.

“We’re so lucky that people like Jason reach out and say, ‘I’ve got this idea,’ and Jeffery. I’ve learned to be open to every single idea,” Mundy said. “We’ve always just had these amazing ideas just come to our doors.”

Friday’s show will begin with architecture-inspired garments, followed by Rochester-area firefighters and then the For Louise collection. Other groups and designers will also show that night, including craft breweries, several fashion-oriented businesses, and Indian fashions, ending with the traditional wedding gown.

Spaull said every afternoon and night of Fashion Week is meant to feel like a party, even though the fundraising is for very serious needs. For the first time this year, each night will have a theme related to one of Center for Youth’s programs, such as its crisis nursery, or shelter for homeless youth who are in the LGBTQ community.

“We’re going to say something every night about the program,” Spaull said. Last Fashion Week raised $825,000; this year’s 10th anniversary goal is $1 million. Costs are high for an event like this, Spaull noted, but kept as low as possible by many outright donations and deeply discounted services. The event is held under a tent constructed on a parking lot owned by Midtown Athletic Club.

Spaull holds that Fashion Week is about community more than fashion. Tickets to each event are kept reasonable — $35 to $100 — and they’re even free for teens coming to Wednesday’s show, which features teenagers on the runway. “We never want teenagers to be left out,” Spaull said. Some shows sell out — they hadn’t yet this week — but individual tickets are usually available even after ringside tables are all gone.

While fashion is the draw for Fashion Week, even those who are not into fashion should feel comfortable attending, Spaull said.

“This is not a fancy pants world. This is bringing together the most amazing assets and the most amazing vibrancy of the city,” she said.

[email protected]/ (585) 363-7275

Fashion Week Rochester

Fashion Week will be held Oct. 14-19 with six shows benefitting six different Center for Youth programs. Go to for more information and to purchase tickets.

Monday, Oct. 14 — A Family Affair. Benefits Crisis Nursery and Owen’s House.

Tuesday, Oct. 15 — Afternoon Rendezvous. Benefits Safe Harbour.

Wednesday, Oct. 16 — Lead The Way. Benefits Street Outreach and Safe Place.

Thursday, Oct. 17 — On the Edge. Benefits Arnett House—By Their Side.

Friday, Oct. 18 — Runway to Rochester. Benefits Our Rochester—Expanded Host Home.

Saturday, Oct. 19 — The Final Look. Benefits Emergency Shelter.

Crisis nursery opens under wing of Center for Youth

One of the bedrooms at Owen's House. The crisis nursery was named for Owen Thomas, who died in a boating accident last year. (Photo by Velvet Spicer)
One of the bedrooms at Owen’s House. The crisis nursery was named for Owen Thomas, who died in a boating accident last year. (Photo by Velvet Spicer)

The need for crisis housing is so widespread in Rochester that in the week before Owen’s House officially opened children were sleeping in four of the home’s beds.

“We had four little ones whose mom was homeless and we were able to take them when they would have been turned away,” said Elaine Spaull, executive director of the Center for Youth, which runs Owen’s House and a second crisis nursery on Genesee Park Boulevard. “That was our goal. Our goal was to never turn away one family and to be here for folks 24/7.”

Owen’s House – The Crisis Nursery of Greater Rochester opened its doors May 11. The Rosewood Terrace home features a living room and play area, a kitchen, two upstairs bedrooms with four beds and three cribs and a soon-to-be-completed back yard play area.

The purpose of the facility is to house children whose families are in situations that range from doctor’s appointments to homelessness.

“If grandma is your child care giver and all of a sudden grandma’s hospitalized, what do you do in that moment,” Spaull asked. “You miss work, you leave your child with a neighbor you don’t know, you leave your child in a car or in a mall. No, we don’t want that.

“So this is our way of saying we’ve got your back, Rochester,” she added.

Elaine Spaull serves as executive director of the Center for Youth, which oversees two crisis nurseries in Rochester. (Photo by Velvet Spicer)
Elaine Spaull serves as executive director of the Center for Youth, which oversees two crisis nurseries in Rochester. (Photo by Velvet Spicer)

The Center for Youth—a nonprofit that delivers a continuum of services to homeless and runaway youth and families in crisis—serves between 25,000 and 30,000 young people per year, Spaull said. The crisis nurseries are not child care centers; rather they are short-term emergency homes where a mom can take her children while she’s removing herself from a domestic violence situation, for example, or while she goes on a job interview.

And while staff look after babies and children, a family resource navigator will look into the bigger crises, said Faith Davignon, assistant director of counseling in runaway homeless youth services.

The navigator helps people who “need mental health, housing, food, employment, child care,” Davignon said. “She’ll drive with people to see daycare. She’ll take them to (Department of Social Services). She’ll help them with resumes, job coaching.”

Davignon, no stranger to crises—her husband died suddenly when their youngest child was three months old—said when she first started running the program she thought she would see just families living in poverty. When her husband died, she took a leave from the position and came back with a new understanding of the populations the agency could serve.

“Because unfortunately crisis can hit at any time and it doesn’t discriminate,” Davignon said.

And turning people away because you don’t have room is the toughest part of the job, she said.

“It’s so difficult to have to triage crisis with families because we’re only able to take six children at a time and you have to say to them, ‘I’m sorry, but your crisis is not as severe as the next person,’ or ‘Unfortunately we’re full, mom, so we can’t support you,” Davignon acknowledged.

Owen's House features art from one of Owen Thomas' art teachers. Most of the items in the home were donated. (Photo by Velvet Spicer)
Owen’s House features art from one of Owen Thomas’ art teachers. Most of the items in the home were donated. (Photo by Velvet Spicer)

Which is precisely why Owen’s House was opened.

The new facility has a full-time manager, full-time staff member who is the childcare lead, a part-time staff member and 15 to 20 relief staff who are on call for support 24 hours a day. The agency also has 50 active volunteers who come in and provide support with a staff member, Davignon said.

Owen’s House was named for Owen Thomas, whose mother, Catherine Cerulli, was co-founder of the original crisis nursery. The teenager was killed in a boating accident last year, after the Center for Youth purchased the home. The agency named the home for him to carry on his legacy, Spaull said.

The original crisis nursery opened as a standalone agency in 2006, but was taken under the Center for Youth’s wing in 2010. Because the crisis nurseries receive no government funding, the Center for Youth uses funds raised at its annual Fashion Week of Rochester event, which last year netted the agency nearly $500,000 to keep its shelters open, Spaull said.

The Crisis Nursery of Greater Rochester turned away some 90 families last year, and another 150 families never reached the facility, Spaull said.

“If I was queen of the world I would have a crisis nursery in every quadrant and make it so easily accessible we would begin to really impact poverty, would impact employment opportunities,” said Spaull, who also is a Rochester city councilmember.

Most of the items in Owen’s House—cribs, toys, high chairs, snacks and diapers for example—were donated by members of the community, while architectural work and contracting was donated by Gaetano Abbate. A group of individuals from Nixon Peabody LLP, where Owen Thomas’ father, Chris, is a partner, cleaned and renovated the home’s back yard. Three colorful paintings were done by one of Owen’s art teachers when he was a child.

“You’re standing in what I believe is a reflection of the goodness of Rochester. You’re standing in a reflection of what’s good and right and what is exactly what this community needs, and how we come together is remarkable,” Spaull said. “In one small house, in one little crisis nursery, what you’re going to see is the best of our community and how we help each other, how we stand up for each other.”

[email protected] / 585-653-4021
Follow Velvet Spicer on Twitter: @Velvet_Spicer