Don't let the name fool you. Native American Community Services, a local not-for-profit human services agency, serves people throughout western New York regardless of race or ethnicity.
And today, the organization took steps to better serve the citizens of eastern Niagara County by opening its first-ever Lockport location at 76 West Ave.
Suzette Brewer, communications director of NACS, said that the organization's board of directors recently voted to expand their services to all state residents. However, with just two physical locations — in Buffalo and Niagara Falls — NACS has struggled to meet the needs of residents in the eastern end of Niagara County, due to the distance.
"That's kind of a haul. By having a location here, it makes it easier on our staff and clients," Brewer said.
NACS offers a wide range of services, including workforce development, financial literacy, parenting classes, foster care, family preservation, GED classes, alcohol and drug abuse prevention, teen pregnancy prevention, Medicaid services coordination, information and referral.
NACS receives its funding through state and federal agencies.
NACS was started in 1975 to address unemployment in Buffalo's Native American community and was then known as the Native American Manpower Program. Over time, the organization opened its doors to people of all races and ethnic backgrounds, and rebranded itself with its current name to reflect its new mission.
In the 1990s, NACS was one of the first agencies to begin addressing the impacts of HIV/AIDS, and in the 2000s, it expanded its programs again to cover services for seniors and those with developmental disabilities.
Brewer said the organization's inclusivity is a product of its tribal traditions.
"There's a tribal element of sharing," she said. "We don't discriminate when people need help. We serve them. That's our job."
For more information on Native American Community Services, visit www.nacswny.org. The organization will hold its Lockport site grand opening from 3 to 7 p.m. today, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 5:30 p.m. Attendees can meet the NACS team, tour the facilities, get more information on NACS services and enjoy refreshments.