October 24, 1973

 

The Puerto Rican Center was founded on November 22, 1969 by Agustin Olivencia, the President of the Puerto Rican American Community Association, Inc. since 1965.  The Center was built by a volunteer group of about 20 Puerto Ricans under the supervision of Mr. Miguel Velazquez, the builder, and Mr. Rafael Hernandez, the carpenter.  Mr. Agustin Olivencia was the first man to seek help for the construction of the Center.  It was his own idea, and it was through his initiative that the whole Puerto Rican Community Center Project was developed.

Mr. Olivencia purchased the land for the Center through an auction held by the City of Buffalo.  In order to raise funds to pay for this land, he approached foundations, made over 60 personal contacts with banks, businesses, and, also, Bishop McNulty donated $10,000.  Mr. Olivencia organized a door-to-door fund raising campaign which visited every Puerto Rican family in the area, and collected $10,000.  Raffles, dances, excursions, 50/50 raffles, dinners, etc., were held and approximately $59,000 was raised.

The labor for building the Center was on a volunteer basis.  A regular group of men gathered every day after 4:00 p.m.  to work on the building.  They worked faithfully day by day in weather with temperatures ranging from 7° - 10° below zero to 90° above.  During the winter months, the men used an empty 50 gallon steel drum full of wood to heat themselves.  It took two long years working under these conditions to complete the building.

The efforts of these diligent men and the hopes of the Puerto Rican Community were finally rewarded on November 22, 1969 when the Puerto Rican Community Center was inaugurated.  Now, the entire community has a place to share their happiness and sorrows with all nationalities.

The Center has the capacity for at least 600 persons and a dancing capacity of about 300 persons.  It has a stage, two offices, a big conference hall used for dances, weddings, meetings, etc., with about 350 chairs and 69 tables.  There is also a bar, which is not operating yet, a kitchen, one public telephone, three heating units, and parking facilities for at least 40 cars.  A second floor is in the planning stage.  An air conditioner is also installed.

During the past, through a Model Cities Program, Puerto Rican History and Culture, typing, music, Spanish and English classes were taught.  Due to financial cuts, the program was suspended.

The Office is open every day from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. for the convenience of people having problems with the English language in the courts, welfare, hospitals, etc.  Another office is open every Wednesday to handle all problems concerning veterans.

The Puerto Rican Community Center is a non-profit organization.