$30 mil­lion in­vest­ment is a hands-down win for Chil­dren’s Psych Cen­ter

The Buffalo News - - CITY&REGION - By Bar­bara O’Brien

The day be­fore they are dis­charged from the West­ern New York Chil­dren’s Psychiatric Cen­ter, pa­tients can leave a hand­print on one of the walls as in­spi­ra­tion to let other pa­tients know that they, too, can get bet­ter.

Now that New York State is plan­ning a $30 mil­lion in­vest­ment in the fa­cil­ity, those who fought to keep it in West Seneca are cel­e­brat­ing with more hand­prints.

“An ab­so­lute com­plete turn­around and recom­mit­ment to the fa­cil­ity,” said Dave Chudy, a mem­ber of the group formed to save the site. “Who would have be­lieved it?”

The state an­nounced last April the cen­ter would re­main at the West Seneca lo­ca­tion with its sprawl­ing lawns and wooded ar­eas, and would not move into the Buf­falo Psychiatric Cen­ter. The plan to move the pro­gram into sev­eral floors of the Strozzi Build­ing at the Buf­falo fa­cil­ity first sur­faced in 2001. It resur­faced about six years ago, and the state said the sav­ings re­al­ized by mov­ing the pro­gram

The group meets Wed­nes­day evenings and Fri­day morn­ings, and has dis­trib­uted 316 mats since Septem­ber 2016.

“It’s a shame we need that many,” she said.

Potter used to help feed the hun­gry with Buf­falo’s Good Neigh­bors, and she helps out with Code Blue, the emer­gency weather, food and shel­ter plan for the home­less.

When vol­un­teers get the bags, they are sorted by color, smoothed out and cut into strips that then are cro­cheted. The per­son mak­ing the mat de­cides what color or pat­terns to use.

There are white, brown and gray bags from Tops Mar­kets, Weg­mans and Wal­mart. Yel­low Dol­lar Gen­eral bags give a burst of color, too. Depart­ment store bags can­not be used for the mats, she said.

The group usu­ally has enough bags, be­cause, well, “those bags, they’re like bun­nies; they mul­ti­ply like you wouldn’t be­lieve,” she said. But some­times she puts the word out on the group’s Face­book page when sup­plies are run­ning low.

In ad­di­tion to help­ing the less for­tu­nate, Potter likes the en­vi­ron­men­tal as­pect of the mis­sion. She said the ef­fort has used close to 400,000 bags, keep­ing them out of the land­fill. Plas­tic bags can­not be re­cy­cled eas­ily. While some stores ac­cept them for re­cy­cling, many mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties do not. They can get caught in the sorting equip­ment at the re­cy­cling fa­cil­ity, slow­ing down the process.

A small por­tion of the bags are cut off be­fore the cro­cheters take over.

The scraps are taken to gro­cery stores for re­cy­cling.

Potter also talks to school­child­ren about the mats.

“It’s teach­ing them about the home­less sit­u­a­tion,” she said. “It’s a very ed­u­ca­tional thing to en­lighten them.”

She tells them it takes about 850 bags to make one mat, and each mat takes about 50 hours to com­plete.

It’s a la­bor of love, but it might not be pos­si­ble if plas­tic bags are banned. Potter said she does not think ef­forts to ban the sin­gle use bags by Erie County and New York State will be en­acted.

“If it hap­pens, it hap­pens,” Potter said.

For in­for­ma­tion on do­nat­ing bags, email mats­formis­[email protected]

“There’s al­ways some­thing you can do to help those less for­tu­nate,” Potter said. “We’re not the City of Good Neigh­bors for noth­ing.”

John Hickey/Buf­falo News

Natalia De la Es­priella, and her brother, Ni­co­las, look on as their father, Ser­gio, puts his hand­print on a buf­falo at the Psychiatric Cen­ter.

Sharon Can­til­lon/Buf­falo News

Bar­bara Hails cro­chets a mat out of plas­tic gro­cery bags. The ef­fort has kept close to 400,000 bags out of the land­fill.

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