By Rich Place

The Bread of Life Outreach (BOLO) Center officially belongs in the hands of the organization that bears its name.

The group earlier this month announced it purchased the former Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Church, located at 8745 Supervisor Ave. in Colden, from the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo.

BOLO had been utilizing the property from the diocese through the St. George Church in West Falls since BOLO’s inception in 2009. The Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Parish merged with St. George the year prior.

The purchase ends more than a year of negotiations and paperwork, according to Marty McMahon, secretary and treasurer for BOLO, an all-volunteer organization.

“When they closed (the church), the management of the property went to St. George’s in West Falls,” McMahon explained. “They were wonderful landlords and we used the building rent-free but were responsible for taxes, utilities and insurances.”

McMahon said BOLO was approached in early 2017 by the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo for the two parties to come up with a formal rental agreement and discuss the property’s future.

Fast forward about 16 months — after offers were made, paperwork was signed and a court process was endured — and BOLO officially purchased the property for about $54,000, according to McMahon.

“The most obvious benefit is our opportunity to ask for grants,” said Michelle McMahon, deputy director at BOLO, about the organization owning the property. “We do have ownership and now we can modify the facilities to meet whatever demands and needs from the community are presented to us.”

Michelle explained the difficulty for an organization to obtain the kind of grants they seek when they don’t own the building, and now it’s easier for BOLO to make improvements to the building without consulting an outside landlord.

But don’t expect a lot of changes immediately — not due to lack of effort by BOLO’s dedicated group of volunteers, but because the organization is also busy down the road after it acquired the former Colden Country Store earlier this year by a donation.

The building, which will officially been called the Cherry Picker, is slated to open as a retail store later this year. A grand opening date isn’t set, but BOLO officials hope to have a soft opening preview the weekend of the Colden Music Festival at the end of September.

Marty said volunteers have been gutting the landmark building — located at the corner of Route 240 and Heath Road — when they meet each Tuesday from 5 to 8 p.m.

Now roughly 75 volunteers strong, BOLO started in 2009 following the closure of the Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Church. At its main campus BOLO now operates a food pantry that is part of the Western New York Food Bank; a thrift shop called Gabriel’s Closet that is a source of funding for its food pantry; and a handful of community activities.

It recently allowed for Colden Elementary School students as part of a poverty simulation and this year has also hosted history lectures, a family story time and more.

“When (BOLO) was formed, they used the gospel message of ‘feed the hungry and clothe the naked’ as their inspiration to create this mission to help people with needs in rural communities, which there are a fair amount of people who fill that description,” said Marty, who joined the group about three years after its inception.

In addition to those services at the main location, BOLO also organizes the Colden Community Farmers Market held Saturdays from May through October and various other fundraisers like the recent Seats for Eats and the annual Christmas Tea and Fashion Show.

“Our goal is to become not only an outreach center, so to speak, for food and clothing but we want to become an anchor to the community and a place people can come for fellowship, volunteering and things like that,” Marty said. “We also want to offer recreational programming, educational programming and we are looking to expand the dimension so we can reach more people.”

For now, BOLO is focused on moving slowly to raise its capital after purchasing the former church property. It’s also in the midst of developing an official strategic plan as it expands its footprint, Michelle said.

An official ribbon cutting to ceremonially open the BOLO campus at the corner of Heath Road and Supervisor Avenue in Colden will be held Thursday, Aug. 16.

Volunteers interested in helping ready the Cherry Picker for opening are invited Tuesdays from 5 to 8 p.m. at its location at the corner of Route 240 and Heath Road. It is requested volunteers call ahead of time if they plan to help at (716) 941-3550.