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SWAN plans growth

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At a time when many neighborhood organizations are tightening their belts, Robert Walker-Smith, new executive director of the Southwest Area Neighborhood Association, says his goal is to nearly triple the group's annual budget from $1.2 million to about $3.5 million over the next 18 months.

Where will the extra money come from? SWAN will likely pursue federal grants for the first time, Walker-Smith says, and the group has been "pretty successful" drumming up private donations.

Walker-Smith, who grew up in southwest Rochester, spent 10 years at Xerox and has also worked at the YMCA and Rochester Institute of Technology.

The bigger budget would allow SWAN to expand its programming, he says. The group serves 171 children through its after-school programs and other offerings, and Walker-Smith says he wants to grow that number to between 350 and 400.

SWAN would also have more programs for seniors, he says, like bringing in life coaches to help seniors with health challenges, money management, and other issues.

"There's so much opportunity in the southwest," he says.

Walker-Smith says SWAN would also use the extra money to provide more food vouchers. Shortage of food is one of the biggest issues facing people in the southwest, he says.

"The impact of hunger and poverty is real," Walker-Smith says. "You'd be amazed at what a hot meal does for a child."

SWAN kicks-off its expansion with the opening of a computer and training center on Monday, December 3, in SWAN's offices off Genesee Street. The center will help adults build resumes and do job searches and provide homework and tutoring assistance for youth. It will also be open to the public on select hours for general use.

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