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Mary Nelson Youth Center Wins National Grant To Expand Space

The Mary Nelson Youth Center is situated on Syracuse's South Side and will soon undergo improvements as a part of the 100 Hometowns initiative by Lowe's.
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The Mary Nelson Youth Center is situated on Syracuse's South Side and will soon undergo improvements as a part of the 100 Hometowns initiative by Lowe's.

Syracuse’s Mary Nelson Youth Center will be getting a makeover as one of 100 winners of Lowe’s 100 Hometown grants. The 100 Hometowns initiative by Lowe's received over 2,200 entries from people and organizations across the countries. The center’s namesake and President Mary Nelson said the award will help provide a better space for youth and families.

“This is the best day ever for me because I know now that our kids, but not just our children, our families. Our families have somewhere safe and much bigger to go,” said Nelson.

Nelson said she is still discussing final details with the project manager, but she’s already started packing up parts of the center in anticipation of renovation. She hopes to know more by the end of the week. They’re planning to redo the floors, increase pantry space, and make some of the rooms bigger so they can do more together.

“We all can sit down together and have a nice meal. My kitchen right now, well [it] got no room now," said Nelson. "We kind of like all bunch up in the kitchen. The kids are in the main room where they eat and they bunch, but they have to take turns to eat. So having that additional space, and having more…to offer. They can do different things, not waiting for someone else to finish. That means a lot to me.”

The Mary Nelson Youth Center hosts a wide range of activities and supports, focusing on education, mentorship, health, career building, and life skills. Nelson said they serve about 25 to 30 kids each day, and she learns what youth are going through and what they need through conversation with them.

“They have a lot to say, and they’re very intelligent. They got a lot to say [about] how they’re feeling. They talk about the gun violence. They talk about having no food. They talk about everything,” said Nelson.

Nelson said she’s happy to provide a space to help children and families build relationships outside of the home, and after the renovations, they’ll be able to provide even more. According to Lowe’s, all 100 of their projects will be completed by the end of the year. For more information on programming, visit

Katie Zilcosky is WAER’s All Things Considered host and features reporter. She also co-hosts WAER’s public affairs show Syracuse Speaks. As a reporter, she focuses on technology, economy, and identity.
Chris Bolt, Ed.D. has proudly been covering the Central New York community and mentoring students for more than 30 years. His career in public media started as a student volunteer, then as a reporter/producer. He has been the news director for WAER since 1995. Dedicated to keeping local news coverage alive, Chris also has a passion for education, having trained, mentored and provided a platform for growth to more than a thousand students. Career highlights include having work appear on NPR, CBS, ABC and other news networks, winning numerous local and state journalism awards.