Back to After 50 Home Page
 


 

PEACE OF THE CITY – 25th Anniversary
By Carol S. Wolf

When I got the email in March that Peace of the City was celebrating their 25th Anniversary, I was amazed. It seemed like it was only a few years ago that I had written an article about them. At the time of my first article on them in 2008, they were utilizing space at a church at Bird and Hoyt. I had met with Diann Takens and she had told me that they began with one after-school program called “Homework Club” in 1992. Their mission had started in an unused Episcopal fellowship hall at Vermont and Prospect.

Then, in August 2012, I met with her again and heard all about how they had expanded their programs. She told me how everything was going great and they had relocated back to the West Side in the summer of 2010, utilizing space in the Loretto Ministries Center in an old Catholic School. She told me her daughter asked her why they would move to a tough neighborhood. Diann responded by looking her straight in the eyes and saying, “It is a terrible neighborhood, and there are children there.”

Diann is now the Executive Director with an incredible future ahead of her and Peace of the City. I had the opportunity to talk with Saniah Washington who is eight years old. Saniah shared, “I come here every day. I play with my friends and I love meeting with Miss Bridgett. She is the best. We do a lot of stuff together and play games. We play word games and board games.” Saniah told me she is eight years old and in 2nd grade at School #3. She told me her favorite subjects in school are math and reading. I told her I also loved reading. Then she asked me if she could read me her favorite poem, “I love the Earth.” I asked her to read me her favorite verse, and she did with a lot of emotion.

After my chat with Saniah, Diann then took me on a tour of whole facility. She told me about all the activities that go on every day and also that they have three small businesses that the teens participate in. She said, “One is called City Bikes and it is for teenage boys only. The second is Sanctuary Soaps & Lotions and the third is Zieani Jewelry. This is more of an in depth way to train our teenagers to learn to be great employees because that is at the core of building a good life. The fourth component that we work on is that they actually do work around this building, whether it is maintenance or janitorial. They work on our van and sometimes we hire the kids out to people who need movers. There is also a job readiness class the teens have to take. They learn the importance of eye contact, firm handshakes, and how to handle conflict on the job. Our programs now are Shakespeare comes to 716, Small Business Development, Literacy for All, Homework Club, and Teen Empowerment.

Suddenly, it was three o’clock and lots of kids started coming in. One group was getting ready to start preparing for Shakespeare Comes to 716. They will be performing it June 29th and 30th at Shea’s Smith Theatre. They will be performing “Romeo & Juliet.” Diann said it is pay-what-you-can and the kids do a great job. Just then, Isaak Sabtow stopped by to say hello. Diann introduced me and he told me he was playing Romeo and that he was really excited. I learned he attends McKinley High School, and shared that my husband was an alum.

Diann said she started it because of Rev. Jeff Carter who was a mentor to her and Peace of the City. He was the chaplain at Attica State Prison. She and Meagan went to his daughter’s memorial service because of a tragedy and Rev. Carter quoted Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” which is “to live or to die.” Diann said, “I was amazed and it felt like an encounter with the living God. On the way out, I said to her, ‘What he said is such a truth that needs to be shared with the community we work with.’”

Laura Anderson, Organization Manager, said she could never have realized what an impact Shakespeare could have in underprivileged communities. It is amazing that 400 years after Shakespeare was written, his works still serve a purpose. Laura said she has been here for two years as Organizational Manager. She said she has known Diann for about 10 years and has read all the print material and fell in love with all of the programs.

Diann went on to say that a large component is working together as an ensemble. The play cannot happen unless everyone works together and is considerate of each other. She shared that they have done 9 different plays and “Romeo and Juliet” is the first play they have repeated. She said, “I never could have anticipated the impact this would have on inner city teens and how it has been an entry way to all our other programs. The kids have learned about Shakespeare in school. Kids seem to connect with the stories. Many teens come to be a part of the play and then they get involved in our other programs.

She continued, “Our audiences are amazed and the applause is amazing. Not because they are saying ‘Wow, it is great what these kids are doing.’ No, they applaud because they have seen a great play and every year we have hit our goal.” Diann also said the week after the play is the hardest week of the year for her because she misses everything.

Laura went on to tell me they have the biggest change coming. They are about a year out from moving into the old school #77. Laura told me, “We are partnering with Push Buffalo, Slow Roll, and Ujima Theatre to purchase the building. We also partner with other organizations and have been fortunate to get grants and funding. Our biggest change since we last met with you was we were getting maybe one grant and now we are getting several grants and other funding to build our infrastructure.”

The play is at Shea’s Smith Theatre June 29th and 30th and then they are taking the play on the road to Grand Rapids, Michigan. Be sure to see it!

For more information or to volunteer, call 585-261-3136.

www.peaceofthecity.org

If you know of a successful program in your community or would like more information please let me know at caroldickwolf@cs.com.

Carol S. Wolf is married to her husband Dick for 52 years. She has 2 sons and 4 grandchildren. She is a writer, speaker, storyteller and leader of workshops and retreats. She is an Associate Spiritual Director at the St. Joseph Center for Spirituality and a member of the Network of Biblical Storytellers WNY.


 

 


Carol wrote this book as part of her two year Master's program in the Academy for Biblical Storytellers. It has just been published and is available for $10.00. Carol is an author, speaker and leader of workshops meditations and conference.
"This book give you an opportunity to experience how, when we become a part of the biblical story, we often find meaning for our own life. It is an incredible resource for confirmation, baptism, and intergenerational groups." Trracy Radosevic, Dean, Academy for Biblical Storytellers.
Anyone interested in buying a book can email me @caroldickwolf@cs.com. The book is $10.00 + $2.00 mailing.