ARP dollars in Action: Sarah A. Reed Children’s Center, St. Ann’s campus

Story by: Michael Outlaw, Community Liaison, City of Erie | Photos by: Monica Z. Gustin, Digital Media and Design Specialist, City of Erie

  • Pray for Our City 
  • LGBTQ+ No Bully Zone 
  • Shalom 
  • Judge Not 
  • No Guns   

These words, phrases, and themes often dominate our news feeds. But you don’t have to turn on the news to think about them. Just head over to the Sarah A. Reed Children’s Center (SARCC), St. Ann’s campus, 921 East Ave., and you will notice them in a collage of art themes created by the students. Their creativity captures your mind, and – for a split second – causes you to self-reflect on the challenges we face as a nation and City, and what role we play in making a better society.

Shown here, on June 20, 2023, is a student tile art project reflecting the sanctuary model, which promotes safety and resiliency from lifes challenges by creating a trauma-informed community. The Sarah A. Reed Children’s Center, St. Ann’s campus, 921 East Ave., which is a certified sanctuary organization, values integrity, respect, individuality, opportunity, safety, diversity, excellence, and teamwork in the care and education of all students. MONICA Z. GUSTIN/CITY OF ERIE

Fulfilling his role to create that society for the students is Gary Bukowski, 72, Associate Vice-President of Development for SARCC. Bukowski’s role is to secure funding to enhance SARCC, which lead him to apply for an ARP funding grant from the City.

“The (City of Erie’s) $75,000 (ARP grant) was a tremendous catalyst to restoring the soul back into the (St. Ann’s campus) and enabled us to continue to help educate children, provide staff salary, purchase gardening tools, (educational) robots, organize field trips, and a summer program talent show, among other things,” said Bukowski.  

Sarah A. Reed Children’s Center St. Ann’s Campus, 921 East Ave., is shown on June 20, 2023. MONICA Z. GUSTIN/CITY OF ERIE

Since 1871, SARCC has had a presence in Erie with services including mental and behavioral health care for children, teens, families, and individuals. Currently, SARCC operates an educational program at the former St. Ann’s school for Erie School District students who exhibit behavioral challenges and need a more therapeutic environment.  

“SARCC mission is anchored in a trauma-informed care model that focuses on youth and family mental health needs,” said Adrienne Dixon, PhD., President and CEO of SARCC. “I started my career with Sarah Reed at the St. Ann’s location which houses several school-based classrooms and was the location for the Pulaski-Lighthouse summer camp. I’m proud that for over 35 years SARCC has provided services in the (East) Tenth (Street)and East Avenue community. Our goal – then and now – is to improve quality of life experiences for families.”

The staff and employees of SARCC try to get the students as close as possible to a one-on-one learning model.

“Most of the students who attend the school come from non-traditional backgrounds,” said Ron Rodney, 47, who manages two programs at the St. Ann’s campus. “Having smaller classrooms and better staff-to-student ratio provides an opportunity for the students to excel and grow.”

Gary Bukowski, at left, associate vice president of development for Sarah A. Reed Children’s Center, and Ron Rodney, program manager at SARCC, at right, sit at a picnic table in the SARCC’s garden, 921 East Ave. on June 20, 2023. A $75,000 ARP grant helped purchase gardening tools, and other teaching resources for the programs housed at the St. Ann’s campus. MONICA Z. GUSTIN/CITY OF ERIE

Julia Briggs agrees.

Briggs, a St. Ann’s Intake/Case Manager, spoke with a parent recently while scheduling a discharge from the program for her child. The parent told Briggs that she was happy that her son attended St. Ann’s, and that she noticed a positive change in her son’s behavior at home and at school, according to Briggs. 

What’s next for the SARCC program at St. Ann’s?

“I hope to add another 1,500 books to our library that offers a variety of selections for the students,” said Bukowski.

Students take part in a class about clean water initiatives at Sarah A. Reed Children’s Center, St. Ann’s campus, 921 East Ave., on June 19, 2023. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
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