Niagara Gazette — Tony Newsome spent 22 years working at the now-shuttered Niagara Community Center on Centre Avenue and Aaron Griffin Way in the city’s North End.
He poured his heart into the building and the children of the surrounding community, children who, like him, spent hours each day inside the center, which is just down the street from his home.
Today, Newsome is awaiting a heart and preparing for a transplant operation he needs to keep him alive. He’s praying for a generous gift of life from a stranger. He feels the same about his beloved community center, which was closed to the public several years ago.
“I remember when the center was filled with life,” he said sadly. “Children running in and out, [me] disciplining them and we serving our community.”
He added that the Doris W. Jones Family Resource Building on Ninth Street has tried to fill the role, “but it is not a community center.”
Friends and family members are hopeful Newsome will get a new heart. He is scheduled to spend a great deal of time at Rochester’s Strong Memorial Hospital awaiting, receiving and recovering from his transplant.
His middle son, Courtney, decided to put on a fundraiser for his dad. He said that it was to help defray some of the costs of his mother’s transportation to and from Rochester, and the necessary stay overnights there. Courtney said the fundraisers will help pull together the communities that his dad had long served, and to unite the hearts of all of the youths and adults whose hearts his father has touched.
Courtney, also said that the fundraiser would serve to, “…let him know that he is not in this by himself.”
The first part of the two-part fundraising event is to take place at 5 p.m. today at the Elks Lodge No. 346 at 1805 Factory Outlet Blvd., where tickets are $20 in advance, $25 at the door.
The second part takes place with gospel music and a silent auction at 5 p.m. Saturday at the once Sacred Heart R.C. Church, now the Niagara Falls True Bethel Baptist Church, at 1112 South Ave., and admission is free.
Despite facing a life-threatening operation, Newsome said he has confidence in his doctors and his city, expressing hope that, “… the community can come together to put the Niagara Community Center back together, and to make it good for the kids.”
To bring the center back to life as the thriving heart of a community, Newsome continued, “it will take my friends, neighbors and work associates to come together.”
“It is up to us to help save ourselves,” he added.
When asked that when he recovers, and if the center is reopened, would he like to return and continue his work there.
Newsome grinned and said, “Yeah.”