Letter to the Editor

To the Editor:

 

Some members of our community have expressed concern about the rezoning request, already approved by the Town of Aurora Planning Board and now under consideration by the Town Board, that would allow the Rural Outreach Center to build a new facility to better serve our rural families. We understand these apprehensions, and we want to give our immediate neighbors and other community members accurate information on which to judge our current operations and our proposed new facility.

 

Why have emergency services been called to The ROC’s facilities?

The ROC trained staff has requested medical attention and police assistance a number of times over the past few years. Most of the reasons involve minor issues, such as a report of an injured deer and a case of a lost-then-found set of keys. The most serious call involved a scuffle that broke out between two of our Participants. At no time in any of these incidents did our staff members or volunteers feel in immediate danger, and we have no reason to believe that our neighbors were under any threat of harm. In fact, there have been no reported incidents by our neighbors or others of perceived danger or injury.

 

Why does The ROC need a new, 9,600-square-foot facility?

We would like to expand our physical space in order to improve both safety and service to the families we help, and to provide therapy services to traumatized children. This zoning approval will enable the ROC to operate in better ways than we ever have before … with updated facilities and with more capability to serve people who seek help.

 

Why should the Town of Aurora embrace ROC Central?

Over the years, the people of the Town of Aurora have displayed overwhelming support for the ROC’s mission to empower our rural families to self-sufficiency. Town of Aurora residents figure heavily into the more than 200 volunteers who generously lend their time to our work. The ROC is already operating and successful at our Town of Aurora location, and our mission—to Assist, Empower and Elevate individuals and families out of poverty—is something all community members can be proud of. Everyone benefits when their neighbors are healthier, happier and better skilled.

 

Have representatives of the ROC been truthful with the community?

In applying for the zoning variance that would allow us to build a new facility, we have put forward every useful fact and attempted to address the inaccuracies that we have heard. Our organization is based on Christian values, and is fueled by the love we have for this community and its most vulnerable members. In our work with Participants, we sometimes challenge them to face hard truths in order to make progress, and accordingly, we are not afraid to look in the mirror and apply that measure to ourselves. We admit failure when it happens, and we strive to own up, even publicly, to our shortcomings. The ROC monitors Participant movement toward greater self-sufficiency and keeps them accountable. So, too, do we monitor ourselves to ensure that we are offering the best possible help and maintain our values of care and compassion to all. The dedicated staff and volunteers of the ROC will continue to work for what is best for our Participants and to be the very best community partner we can be to all our fellow Town of Aurora residents and rural families.

 

Finally, we never want to minimize the concerns of our neighbors. Yes, over the past year we have, about twice each month, created lines of traffic when we’ve provided food and basic necessities, and health and wellness assistance, to rural families who have been hit particularly hard by COVID-19. We’ve done this thanks to the generosity and support of community members, Pegula Sports and Entertainment, the Buffalo Bills, the Buffalo Sabres, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and more than 20 of our community’s leading foundations. The ROC is not a food pantry, but because of our reach into rural communities, we were asked to provide short-term food assistance. As the need decreases, we will phase out this program.

 

Note: This paragraph was added 2/09/21, after the letter went to print in the East Aurora Advertiser.

And yes, we host people overnight who need shelter in the coldest months. We help people, neighbors, who are troubled, sometimes in multiple ways.  However, after listening to our closest neighbors and after careful consideration, we have decided that the Code Blue program will not continue after the end of this season (April 30th, 2021) at either its current location or at the proposed building.  We appreciate the feedback we received and have made this decision in recognition of the concerns our neighbors have shared.

 

We are requesting a zoning variance to continue and improve on this mission, one that everyone agrees is necessary to serve those in our community who are the most vulnerable. We appreciate the Town of Aurora’s commitment to creating a comprehensive zoning plan that will serve our community for years to come. We ask that each concerned citizen take some time to reach out if you have questions, understand the facts, and ask yourself, if not in the mixed zone location where the ROC has served our rural families since 2011, then where?

 

Sincerely,

 

Tim Lafferty, Board Chair

Rev. Frank Cerny, Executive Director

The Rural Outreach Center

716.240.2220