Schoellkopf Park, NACC receive Oishei grants
The restoration of Schoellkopf Park as a catalyst for the revitalization of downtown Niagara Falls moved a giant step closer to completion in May as the John R. Oishei Foundation announced the awarding of $75,000 toward the completion of the half-million dollar project.
The Oishei award will be used to help complete the second phase of a project begun last year to restore Schoellkopf Park to its former splendor and serve as the centerpiece of a larger project designed to bring new life to the entire neighborhood surrounding Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center and the Niagara Arts & Cultural Center, commonly called the NACC.
Located at the epicenter of a burgeoning arts and medical corridor on Pine Avenue at Portage Road in Niagara Falls, the park is adjacent to the Schoellkopf Health Center on the Memorial Medical Center campus and directly across the street from the NACC.
“We believe the NACC and this partnership with NFMMC and the City of Niagara Falls around Schoellkopf Park are key elements to the revitalization of this several-block area of the city," said Robert D. Gioia, president of the Oishei Foundation. "This is the kind of intensive, grassroots level work that will not only spread to other areas but be sustainable in the long term, and we're pleased to have the opportunity to support it.”
Memorial President & CEO Joseph A. Ruffolo said today’s announcement confirms the medical center’s long-held belief that meaningful collaboration is essential to redeveloping the Memorial Park neighborhood.
“We are proud to say this project will be fully funded by state, city and private foundation grants and philanthropic donations,” said Patricia E. Berggren, Memorial’s vice president for foundation and community relations. “We are very grateful to the Schoellkopf family for their leadership gifts and to the Oishei Foundation, the City of Niagara Falls Department of Community Development and the New York State Office of Parks and Recreation for their steadfast support.”
The Oishei Foundation’s support extends to the the Niagara Arts & Cultural Center, as well, with the award of a $300,000 grant over the next four years to support staff and organizational development. That grant will pay $100,000 for the first year, $75,000 each for the second and third years and $50,000 for the fourth year and will be devoted to building the organization’s capacity so it can support roughly $100,000 in staff salaries by the fifth year.
“For our first five years, the NACC has operated largely with volunteer staff for everything from washing the floors to keeping the books,” said outgoing board President Paul Dyster. “The time has come for the NACC to transition to staffing arrangements that include at least a cadre of paid staff, even though volunteers will still play a huge role in every aspect of the facility’s day-to-day operations. This multi-year grant funds us through this critical period in NACC’s development.”
Phase One of the Schoellkopf Park restoration was completed in 2006 and includes new stairs and ramps to make it handicap accessible to Schoellkopf Health Center residents, the installation of wide stone walkways and the creation of three generously sized circular planting areas.
The $350,000 Phase Two is scheduled to get under way in June and is scheduled for completion this fall. When complete, it will include a signature fountain and period-style fencing; new benches, lighting, security and irrigation systems; and extensive landscaping and planting.
The focus of the plantings will be “Serenity Blossoms: A Healing Garden,” an oasis of tranquility designed to foster a healing environment using fragrant and colorful flowers and plants that attract butterflies.
“Butterflies are a symbol of hope for the victims and survivors of cancer and other diseases,” Berggren said. “Serenity Blossoms will give people who are hurting a place to seek solace and healing by reconnecting with nature.”
A garden club organized by the Auxiliary of Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center, the hospital’s original fundraising arm, will coordinate annual plantings for Serenity Blossoms and the park’s other two flower gardens, Berggren said.
A community campaign to support the completion of the park’s restoration is being chaired by HSBC Bank USA First Vice President Nancy Gara, a friend of the Schoellkopf family and a former member of the Memorial Medical Center Foundation Board of Directors.
“The money we raise will receive a dollar-for-dollar match from the state of New York’s Environmental Protection Fund,” Gara said. “Every gift, every dollar will have a significant impact as we move forward with restoring this beautiful and historic park to its former majesty.”
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