By Bill Wolcott
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — It didn’t take a miracle to turn a condemned house on Genesee Street into a transitional home.
The transformation only required the cooperation of about 40 churches, Habitat for Humanity, Reach Camp, dozens of volunteers and selfless leadership.
Lockport CARES, which operates an emergency shelter on Genesee Street, will conduct a Community Weekend on Friday and Saturday, and special ceremonies Sunday to dedicate Kahler House and Ministry.
The transitional house — built for adult men who need help achieving self sufficiency — is named in memory of Norman E. Kahler Jr., who died April 21. Kahler was president of Lockport CARES.
“I think it’s pretty unique and pretty wonderful,” Executive Director Marty Nagy said of the ecumenical effort. “Lockport CARES, to me, is phenomenal. This isn’t any one church’s domain, or any one person. It belongs to God. These are His houses and His ministry.”
Nagy, who has worked for CARES since before the old house was bought in 2007, was the shelter manager before becoming executive director in December. Chris Yoder moved up from resident manager to shelter manager.
“The hardest part is to see people come in really broken,” the Newfane native said. “The best part is seeing them in housing and with smiles on their faces.”
CARES has been successful. In 2012, 257 people took refuge at the emergency shelter. This year, 81 clients were served over the summer alone.
Residence at the shelter is limited to 10 days. Some clients have to come back.
"We have those who recycle through,” Nagy explained. “One of the primary reasons we opened this (transition) house is because a lot of the men that come through do repeat us. We hope to get those who we feel are motivated and want to change their lives around. It will help to have a really good place for them.”
There's room at Kahler House for up to six men. Clients will agree to follow a faith-centered "program" for achieving self sufficiency, with components including schooling, work or both; weekly Bible study and regular attendance to church. Clients will be able to stay at Kahler House for up to two years.
The house will be opened to clients once CARES finds a residential assistant. The organization is looking for an individual or a couple who can work for room and board only, Nagy said; per its rules, there must be a man in the house.
“We can’t give (the R.A.) money right now. We really want them in here afternoons, suppertime and overnight,” she said.
Kahler House was raised completely by volunteers. Teenagers volunteering with Reach Workcamps painted it this past summer. Habitat for Humanity played an instrumental role in making the old house habitable, Nagy said.
The emergency shelter is manned by volunteers and at least two "guardians" per shift. Occupancy averages about 10 clients at any time, whose average stay is eight to nine days. Clients are pre-screened rigorously and there have been minimal negative incidents at the shelter, Nagy said.
Kahler’s family is expected to attend the Sunday dedication ceremony.
Kahler “was a Christ-centered man,” Nagy said. “He was an exemplary man, husband and father. Norm was an amazing man.”