Firehalls to Veteran Walls: The Rehab of Old Engine Firehouse #16 Veterans Complex

              On September 6th, 2011, The Service Collaborative of Western New York, Inc. (TSCWNY), formerly Western New York AmeriCorps will ascend on Old Engine #16 Firehouse Veterans Complex (OE16) in Buffalo, NY for the latest "9/11 Day of Service" project.  OE16 is a 9-unit  housing complex for disabled veterans and elderly citizens.  This firehouse is one of four sites operated by the Western New York Veterans Housing Coalition (WNYVHC). WNYVHC  has provided services for countless veterans for almost two decades, serving over 2,000 veterans with special needs in the WNY region.  The rehabilitation of the OE16 project will have a direct impact veterans and military families.  New York State has the highest number of veterans and WNY has the highest concentration of veterans per capita than any other region.

                TSCWNY encompasses four national service programs (VISTA, ABLE, ServiceCorps, YouthBuild), a HandsOn Network Affiliate, and manages the WNY  AmeriCorps Alums Chapter.  In addition,  TSCWNY has partnered with Team Depot (the Home Depot Volunteer Team) to honor and engage in the renovation of OE16.  Together, they will be participating in the rehab of a veterans complex bolstered by the skill-labor of Team Depot.  Over the years, wheelchairs have deteriorated the living spaces and are very hard on necessary fixtures.  The floors need to be replaced, the toilets are coming loose, there are several holes in the drywall, the countertops are worn down, and sinks are cracking. The building lacks the energy efficient measures to keep costs down and the exterior landscape is in dire need of repair.  WNYVHC does not have the funding for these improvements needed to provide this necessary service to the WNY community.  This project will allow volunteers to have a direct impact on ensuring that disabled veterans and their families have access to affordable housing.  Committed AmeriCorps Alums, AmeriCorps members, Team Depot, and newly recruited community  volunteers will better understand the everyday challenges of our veterans and the sacrifices' made for our freedom by rehabilitating OE16.

                Providing this service opportunity for our AmeriCorps Alums, AmeriCorps members, and recruited volunteers will highlight the commitment to our region and most importantly, veterans and military family. Connecting individuals in service with HandsOn Greater Buffalo (HOGB) will help foster service to our community.  HOGB continues to assist our AmeriCorps Alums, AmeriCorps members, and recruited volunteers in strengthening greater Buffalo through service and civic engagement.  HOGB is responsible for retention of AmeriCorps Alums, AmeriCorps members, and fellow supporters by encouraging and promoting on-going volunteer opportunities. Updated HOGB technology will allow all individuals participating in volunteerism to have greater access to service projects across the WNY region.  HOGB actively  engages in social networking and utilizes our email database to inform our alums, members, and supporters about on-going activities and volunteer opportunities.

                AmeriCorps Members, AmeriCorps Alums, Team Depot, and recruited volunteers (engaging 250 volunteers total) will participate in the rehabilitation of OE16.  This project will take place during the week of 9/11 Day of Service starting on Tuesday, 6/9/11 through on Friday, 9/9/11.  Our signature event will be held on Friday, 9/9/11 where the project  will come to a close and a "Thank You" celebration and remembrance for our volunteers, 9/11 victims active duty military and veterans, and their families will follow.  Day 1 will focus on the exterior part of the complex.  HOGB will be responsible for the coordination of the project. It will be conducted over a 4-day period, with each day being broken up into an individual project (four projects total). Breaking up the projects over a 4-day period will allow TSCWNY to meet the needs of engaging volunteers in all ages and abilities.  OE16  is limited on space and projects have to be separated to accommodate the logistics accordingly.   Day 1 consists of basic landscaping work and the construction of a courtyard that includes a garden area and shed. Day 2, 3, and 4 will focus on the interior of the complex. Renovations and updates will include adding protection to the walls and corners to combat wheelchair abuse, installation of energy efficient appliances, new flooring and carpet, new toilets, new windows, and a significant amount of painting.  AmeriCorps Alums, AmeriCorps members, Team Depot, and Volunteer Team Leaders will work with HOGB to breakdown responsibilities and coordinate assigned tasks on each day to participating volunteers to ensure all activities are organized.  We will encourage community members, local governmental and non-governmental agencies, and media outlets to promote and participate in this project.

                We will be inviting a number of elected officials  from the cities of Buffalo and Niagara Falls, as well as state and national representatives  to participate in these events.  An advanced media advisory will be sent out two weeks prior to the event and an official press release will be sent out in the days leading up to the start of the events. This aims to capture the coverage from local media outlets as they will also be invited to participate in the event.  We will be allocating a portion of the grant monies to advertising during the day of the event with t-shirts created for our volunteers and printed banners for the site.