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Allen's good works extend well beyond hockey

by Adam Kimelman
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Doug Allen hits all the right notes when he sings the national anthems at Buffalo Sabres home games.

He does even more good at his day job, as the maintenance supervisor at Cornerstone Manor, a facility that gives shelter to Buffalo’s homeless women and children. It’s affiliated with Buffalo City Manor, which shelters homeless men.

“I take care of the building,” said Allen. “I fix things when they break, I take care of service calls. I do some work on the floor, some of the heavier work that the ladies might not be able to do.

“If it breaks, they call me.”

Allen has been giving his time to Buffalo’s most needy for 17 years. While it’s a paid position; “none of us are getting rich.”

Well, they are if you value something other than money, which Allen certainly does.

Cornerstone Manor is a two-phase facility, thanks to the new building the mission opened in 2006. The non-denominational building offers emergency, short-term shelter to 16 single women. The mission also offers a transitional housing program, which allows for 12 families or 46 single women to stay in suites for up to two years as they attempt to repair their lives.

There also are rooms for Bible study, adult and childhood education, and life-skills courses, and there’s a kitchen for cooking and nutrition classes. There’s also a basketball court and gazebo for outdoor activities.

“It’s for ladies committed to changing their lives,” said Allen. “We have all kinds of vocational opportunities for them, GED classes, computers, all those things. We have medical for them, child care for them, everything to give them the opportunity to learn a new way of living.

“The way they’ve been living brought them to homelessness, and we’re offering them the opportunity to learn some new habits and new life skills that will help them succeed when they go out.”

Allen said the new program is a huge and wonderful change from when he started.

“It’s an incredible program,” Allen said. “It’s something very new. We’re pioneering this across the country. It’s a tremendous program. I’ve been there 17 years. When I started, somebody would come in off the street, they would stay 30 days and have to move on, and we’d see the same people over and over. We learned the longer we could keep them in the shelter, the longer they stayed in the program and the better the success rate. They could unlearn the bad habits and learn the good habits, all those things. You could teach them the skills to survive. It’s wonderful to see.”

Allen has been a wonderful sight for Sabres fans, who have enjoyed Allen’s work over the last 15 years. Allen does most Sabres home games, with the exception of Wednesday and Sunday nights, when commitments to his other love, his church, force him to be elsewhere. He’s the worship leader and music director at Big Tree Wesleyan in nearby Blasdell, N.Y.

Allen is looking forward to singing the Canadian anthem prior to The AMP Energy NHL Winter Classic on New Year’s Day. It’s a little less work than he’s used to, but Allen said he has no problem ceding some of his duties to famed Irish tenor Ronan Tynan, who will sing God Bless America.

“We probably will get to hang out before the game,” said Allen.

Anyway, he’s got far more important things to worry about, like how the homeless in Buffalo will be spending their New Year, and making sure all the people at Cornerstone Manor are safe and sound.

“It is a calling,” he said. “We’re doing something good.”

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