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“A Home for the Holidays”

“A Home for the Holidays,” was the unquestionable theme of the Buffalo Dream Center this past week as Pastor Eric Johns and his family, along with good friend, Nicholas Colandra from Hearts for the Homeless, offered hundreds of homeless people respite from the frigid Code Blue conditions in Buffalo by providing them with a hot and freshly prepared full course dinner!

A sumptuous Christmas Eve Lasagna Dinner, complete with all the trimmings, including homemade cookies, was held at The Buffalo Dream Center on Lafayette Avenue in Buffalo. In partnership with Hearts for the Homeless, The Buffalo Dream Center gave hundreds of souls who might normally be along the street struggling in the bitter cold, a body warming, and a heartwarming traditional holiday experience. Two large buses filled with passengers picked up from five different locations around the city made their way to The Buffalo Dream Center. “We do this every year, bring people together, and really just try to share and spread love and Christmas cheer, to people who need it the most,” remarked Nicholas Colandra.

In Buffalo, over 800 volunteers at 21 distribution sites, made the 2017 Christmas season a little brighter for over 2,500 families, The “Boxes of Love,” effort went to the neediest families with food and toys, because of the hard work of Pastor Eric Johns, his household, and the Buffalo Dream Center. I have watched the Johns and their children grow in service to this community over the last 2 decades. Pastor Eric and Pastor Michelle’s youngest son Nathan was greeting all the guests and volunteers at the door and making public announcements – it was astonishing! Their other children Victoria, Emilie, Mikayla, and Alexander, and two son-in-laws, Desmond and Sky work non-stop to continue their custom of serving Christmas charity and that awesome Christmas dinner.

“The dinner was the Buffalo Dream Center’s final holiday event of the year,” Stated Pastor Eric Johns, “We begin the month giving away “Boxes of Love,” which were filled with toys and food for families in Western New York.”

Also besides the incredible work being performed in the inner city, the Johns’ family has withdrawn their service to Mexico, Ghana, Guatemala, Jamaica, Bahamas, South Africa, and India. Michelle trains pastors all over the world how to reach children. They lead teams to India twice each year holding conferences for children’s ministers and leadership. They have pioneered children’s ministry in India and established two orphanages, named “Center of Hope”. The Center of Hope in Guntur includes an orphanage, an elementary school, widow’s home, and a training center. In Tirupati is a home for children who have lost their parents to the AIDS virus. Presently, they care for approximately sixty orphans.

2018 will mark the 20th anniversary year of the Buffalo Dream Center’s outreach to the homeless with the most reliable, humble and sincere service to the less fortunate of Buffalo. Stay tuned for your chance to help with this year’s effort.

Written by Mark Lazzara

Mark Lazzara

I have a passion for helping my fellow Western New Yorkers and advance the great things that are going on in this region. Buffalo Rising is a great booster and it’s a blast writing and contributing to BR about positive happenings in our neck of the woods. I appreciate the help I’ve received over the years from organizations and people who share my passion and supported me in efforts that put thousands of people to work and resulted in a community give back of more than $115M to Buffalo’s neediest during my days at the helm of AmeriCorps.

I’m especially grateful for the opportunities that enabled me to help cities devastated by Hurricane Katrina and rebuild more than 700 family homes that were destroyed. Back at home, I was able to enjoy a once in a lifetime experience as a coordinator for ABC’s Extreme Makeover Home Edition where we were able to repair, beautify and upgrade homes for an entire neighborhood on Buffalo’s Westside. Other projects close to my heart include a collaboration with Sail Buffalo to build the Cazenovia Boating Center at Buffalo’s Outer Harbor, and my annual Christmas season time is spent at Buffalo’s treasure, the Broadway Market, playing Santa Clause.

In my other life, I am a workforce development, business, marketing, public relations and fundraising professional. Earned a M.S. Human Service Management from Buffalo State, and enjoy my family life that includes four amazing grandchildren!

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