Friday, November 26, 2021

MAP's work continues during winter months


Emily O’Bryan, farmhouse coordinator at the Massachusetts Avenue Project’s Urban Farm, said although the growing season slows during the winter months, the farm has other initiatives to keep the community engaged during the cold season, like a year-round mobile market truck that caters to the West Side’s culturally diverse community.  “We really prioritize local food that both we grow and also source from other local farms and vendors.  We value cultural foods, so we keep in mind when we go to these communities what types of fruits or vegetables they are looking for.  We recognize that we are guests in the community, and we want to form good relationships,” O’Bryan said. The fall markets continue to do well, said Development Director Sarah Klawinski.  MAP Urban Farm, 387 Massachusetts Ave., is planning for the next season. MAP Youth have planted hundreds of garlic cloves this farming season on the farm’s Winter Street lot, which will be harvested next year. By Jillian Kasmore and Angelea Preston

Monday, November 15, 2021

West Side stores part of Shop716 e-card program

Small businesses on the West Side are among the more than 750 businesses that are participating in the Shop 716 program to help in the recovery from losses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last year the program helped bring in $2 million in the Come Back to our Comeback campaign. The success of that program prompted the promotional eGift card initiative from Erie County. The program allows patrons to buy a gift card valued at at least $25 and get a $25 gift card for free.

 This is the second year of the Shop 716 program appears to be achieving the same levels of interest as last year.  

“We’re reaching just about $2 million that has injected into the local independent Erie County businesses,” said Christine Langenfeld, director of marketing and operations for the Amherst Chamber of Commerce.

            Langenfeld also said that there has been nothing but positive feedback from all the businesses.

One West Side businesses in the Shop 716 program is Elmwood Pet Supplies, 706 Elmwood Ave. The eGift Card has brought people in from the suburbs to shop at the store.

            “I think everyone’s hope is to not send money out of the area, and support your local merchants,” Co-Owner Tom Higgins said. 

             Shop 716 includes an array retail and service businesses. The free promotional gift card expirse on Dec. 30 to promote customers to use them during the holiday season. By Evan DiPasquale, Michaela Frazier and Danielle Stiegler


Sunday, November 14, 2021

Library on Wheels booking it to the West Side

Buffalo and Erie County Public Library bookmobile

By Jillian Kasmore 

and Angelea Preston     

           Fall is in the air as elementary students at West Buffalo Charter School eagerly stand shoulder to shoulder in anticipation to climb into the mobile library. 

     Their second grade teacher commands their attention, as these hungry book lovers impatiently wait to see what plot line they will immerse themselves into.

            One student shrieked that he was going to pick a book about superheroes, while another girl shyly whispered that she was going to become a bug expert. As they scrambled to find their quests, they realized that each had endless opportunities right in front of their fingertips inside the Library on Wheels, the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library’s bookmobile.

            Andrea Todoro, the school leader of West Buffalo Charter, 113 Lafayette Ave., said that having access to these resources is the first step her students have in the world of reading. Although it is the first year that the school is participating in the program, she still sees the impact it has on all ages which includes kindergarten through eighth grade.

            The students look forward to the Bookmobile coming each week. Watching their faces light up when they enter and see the books is the best thing in the world. Our families are grateful that our school and their children get to participate in this program,” Todoro said. 

            The library system has a total of 37 libraries and year-round Bookmobile services that provide free services for those who live in Erie County, including the West Side of Buffalo.

            West Side resident George Olmsted believes that there is a deeper need for the community to keep this library on wheels.

            I grew up as a kid over by Kleinhans, there was a library down the street, but the bookmobile would be in my neighborhood quite often. As a kid, it was a great way to get a book whenever you need one. They were way ahead of their time. They had the mobile idea way before the food trucks,” Olmsted said.

            In order to be more accessible, the library created the first ever bookmobile service in 1947.  Samantha Purpora, the mobile services manager, said that the bookmobile ran until 2005 when budget cuts caused the library to take it off the road.

            “This bookmobile has been in existence for five years. In the 70s and 80s they had bookmobiles. At some point during budget cuts, they got rid of them. People love to come on and talk about how they were children and how it used to come to their schools. They love to see the new one,” Purpora said.

            In 2015, the library made a bid for the bookmobile services to come back due to the need in particular communities that lacked physical libraries or areas that do not have access to transportation.

            The bookmobile stores over 3,000 books, movies, and music for every age.  It offers free Wi-Fi and laptops. Members can pick-up books on hold and return items. Erie County residents also can sign up for a library card at the bookmobile.

            The bookmobile visits many locations weekly throughout Erie County, like senior apartments, and schools, including locations right here on the West Side. 

            “Charter schools are particularly more receptive to the Bookmobile coming because they do not have a librarian. Students are able to get library cards. We make regular stops so they know when they will see us,” Purpora said.

            Julia Verbanic who has been a full-time librarian for the bookmobile for over three years, sees the benefit of the Library on Wheels especially in the COVID-19 pandemic.

            “For people who cannot make it into a regular library because of lack of transportation, or they don't feel comfortable, it is a really good alternative. It also is a good starter for kids who have not been in a public library. It's a good reminder that the library is still here,” Verbanic said.

            With the positive feedback from the community, the library has also decided to fund a new Library2GO van besides the original Bookmobile in December 2022. Purpora said that the library y will be using the bookmobile for schools, daycares, and summer camps while the Library2GO van will be used for older adult living facilities.

            We currently visit 10 older adult living facilities and are looking to expand in the upcoming year. These services are vital for older adults who can't drive or travel to a brick-and-mortar library. We also offer Library by Mail service to any of our patrons who are homebound,” Purpora said.