Niagara Gazette —
The not-for-profit group that is working to turn vacant, city owned homes into working classrooms and then into homes for low-income Niagara Falls residents just got a major boost from the John R. Oishei Foundation.
The Isaiah 61 Project, the faith-based organization that is providing job training and affordable housing for city residents, was recently awarded a $200,000 Oishei Foundation grant to help the group get off the ground.
Jim Haid, the organization's founder, brought his idea to the city earlier this year and the group bought its first house on Whitney Avenue in December. The organization has partnered with Orleans Niagara BOCES and eight students who have started their semesters learning the basics of home repair in preparation for class time to be spent repairing the house. The students - who will earn certificates from the school if they complete the 400-hour training course - could begin work on Whitney Avenue this week if all the necessary permits fall into place.
Haid said seeing the students in action has been encouraging.
"The students are very committed to the program," Haid said. "It's very exciting to see."
Haid said the foundation's financial backing - and the confidence that the foundation's reputation brings along with it - helps to ensure a sound future for his organization.
"That really is going to solidify us going into the future," Haid said. "For them to be backing us and what we're doing here in the Falls is just a God send for us."
The vote of confidence from the area's largest private foundation will help the Isaiah 61 Project secure funding from other foundations and government entities down the road, Haid said.
"With their great reputation and their commitment to the community, we'll be able to piggy back off of that," Haid said.