The Valley Community Association
When incorporated in 1969 the Valley Community Association (VCA) served the needs of the community by providing programs aimed at improving the social well-being of the residents however since that time the Valley has expanded its focus to include all the residents of the Buffalo River community.
In 1971, the lobbying efforts of the group were recognized by the completion of what is now known as the Fr. Carmichael Center. The City of Buffalo mandated that the center be operated under the auspices of the Parks Department and staffed by civil service employees. Although its initial mission for erecting a recreational center for area youth was complete, the Valley Community Association, which had grown to become a powerful voice, successfully sought government funding. Erie County Youth Board money enabled the VCA to lease space for its new headquarters at 202 Elk Street, hire staff, and extend programming into Public School #33 and St. Stephen’s School. Under the supervision of its first executive director, David Sengbush, programs included primarily youth activities, such as arts and crafts, a teen center, athletics, and recreation. In the Fall of 1968, at the same time the VCA saw its beginnings, a Teacher Corps Team from Buffalo State College was assigned to Buffalo Public School #33 and began to work in the community. This group, headed by the now deceased Helen Waite, was responsible for publication of a neighborhood newsletter and developed a preschool program known as “Sesame Street”.
Margaret Overdorf was hired in 1979 to succeed John Ort who served one year and Michael Overdorf who had served four years as executive director.
Shrinking maintenance dollars in the City of Buffalo budget in the late 1970’s had caused the Fr. Carmichael Center to fall into a state of disrepair. It had become a haven for gangs and repeated incidents of violence. In an effort to curtail the violence, the City of Buffalo Police Department assigned a police substation within the building. VCA staff and volunteers worked to repair the wooden gym floor that resembled a roller coaster due to a neglected roof leak. With permission from the City of Buffalo Parks Department, the VCA began to operate youth athletic leagues on a part time basis. A crime comparison study was conducted of the five months the VCA operated part-time programs in the 1981-1982 year with the same five months of 1980-1981 year and demonstrated a drastic decrease in youth related police calls.
In 1988, a $303,000 addition to the Fr. Carmichael Center was built and is known as the Valley Senior Citizen Center. This area is used for various programs including senior citizen and youth after school activities. The center was later dedicated and named after long time board member, the late Geraldine Butler.
In 1998, the VCA built a 7000 square foot expansion onto the back of the Fr. Carmichael Center. It is the home of “Puppy Dog Tales” – a state of the art, secure, quality child care center licensed by the State of New York for 60 children. Grants totaling nearly 1 million dollars including $490,000 from the Empire State Development Corporation enabled the child care center to open debt free.
In 2004, the VCA opened its second New York State licensed day care – Valley Child Care at Larkin in Larkinville at 726 Exchange Street, formerly Graphic Controls. The center licensed for 60 children serves primarily the tenants of this restored historic building, once part of the Larkin Company complex.
Old abandoned portable classrooms were identified at the former PS School #57 on Sears Street and Broadway on Buffalo’s East side. . Peg Overdorf, Executive Director contacted then Mayor Masiello and Control Board Chairman Tom Baker to ask that the City of Buffalo donate these buildings. Spearheaded by Bill Bohen, business agent for Ironworkers Local 6, trade unions including Laborers Local 210, Electrical Workers Local 41, Operating Engineers Local 17, Carpenters Local 9 and UAW 687 all came to the rescue to move these steel buildings adjacent to the center. With assistance from Western New York Foundation and the Richard Rupp Foundation and the generosity of corporations and community volunteers the classrooms were dedicated The Frank Pezzimenti Academic Center in February of 2008 in honor of a long time board member.
The VCA currently receives funding from a variety of sources including New York State, Erie County, the City of Buffalo, corporations, foundations, program fees, fundraising, and the United Way of Buffalo and Erie County.