The John R. Oishei Foundation recently awarded a $200,000 grant to the Isaiah 61 Project. The grant will be dedicated to an ambitious home renovation/on-site job training program in the City of Niagara Falls over the next three years. The Isaiah 61 Project is a faith based organization affiliated with Destination Life Fellowship Church. It is focused on rehabilitating Niagara Falls housing stock and providing skilled trades training in the process.
"We recognized the commitment of the Isaiah 61 Project and its Project Coordinator, Jim Haid to positively impact the Niagara Falls community. That, along with the cooperation of key supporters like the City itself and the Orleans/Niagara Board of Cooperative Education Services (BOCES) served as motivation for the Foundation to support this effort." stated Lawrence Cook, Senior Program Officer of the John R. Oishei Foundation.
In late 2012, the Isaiah 61 Project partnered with the Niagara Falls Community Development Department and Orleans/Niagara BOCES to address the housing and employment training needs in the neighborhood surrounding the Destination Life Fellowship Church at 1609 22nd Street. A strategy was developed quickly, gaining support from a wide group of stakeholders. The City of Niagara Falls is selling vacant homes, starting with 2215 Whitney Avenue (entry image), to the Isaiah 61 Project, for $500. In turn, the project partnered with Orleans/Niagara BOCES and MIKELLY Construction to convert neglected vacant homes into living classrooms. The students, unemployed city residents between the ages of 18-60, will learn home renovation skills through a 400 hour semester long program. Under direct supervision of licensed contractors, the students will prepare these homes for first time homebuyers.
The Oishei Foundation's $200,000 grant will help the program expand to multiple houses and more students, growing the reach of this transformative project.
Orleans/Niagara BOCES Director of Career and Technical Education and Adult Education Joe Steinmetz says, "We were very excited about being asked to get involved in this project. That is what our mission here at Orleans/Niagara BOCES is: we provide skilled trades training so that our students can find gainful employment. The students will be learning entry-level skills such as dry walling, painting, framing, windows, doors and basic electrical and plumbing. Class size will be kept to about 10 students so that it is a more intense and hands-on education. They will be working with professionals in the field and will get to experience and understand the day-to-day workings of a construction and renovation job. It is a win-win situation for everyone with the students getting marketable skills and the City of Niagara Falls being able to improve their neighborhoods. We are very proud to be part of this."
"The Isaiah 61 Project is committed to reclaiming this neighborhood one home, one family, and one person at a time. We are very grateful for this generous grant. The Oishei Foundation is not just investing in our project; it is investing in the future of Niagara Falls," said Jim Haid, Isaiah 61 Project Coordinator. Haid credits the project's early success on the coalition of support built around the idea. "Isaiah 61, Orleans/Niagara BOCES, and Niagara Falls Community Development are working together to make this happen. We met with the Oishei Foundation as a group, and having everyone at the table strengthened our request for funding. Our stakeholders will continue to work together around the common goals of neighborhood improvement and job training."
The Isaiah 61 Project is aligned with the City of Niagara Falls' plan to strategically invest in neighborhoods and to create homeownership. "Through this project, vacant homes are being renovated, local students are learning trades that will help them find jobs, and residents will become homeowners. The strategy is a win, win, win," said Seth Piccirillo, Director of Niagara Falls Community Development."We are being proactive. We do not have to wait for a housing auction or for these buildings to fall apart, require demolition, and then look for excuses. We can work together to save these city blocks. The City is excited to continue our strong partnership with the Isaiah 61 Project, Orleans/Niagara BOCES and MIKELLY Construction, and truly appreciates the Oishei Foundation's helping hand."