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New York Air Brake’s parent company gives $205k to Urban Mission


The charitable arm of New York Air Brake Co.’s parent company, the Knorr-Bremse Group, has awarded the Watertown Urban Mission 10 percent, or up to $205,000, toward the nonprofit’s capital campaign, which seeks to revitalize its Factory Street location and establish an endowment.

The grant is the first for Knorr-Bremse Global Care has awarded in North America, according to New York Air Brake President Michael J. Hawthorne. Knorr-Bremse Global Care’s commitment will specifically ensure the Watertown Urban Mission’s food pantry will be renovated, as that portion was “a somewhat self-containable project,” Mr. Hawthorne said.

“Another part that spoke to us and helped make the application successful is the level of dignity people are able to draw on who shop there,” he said. “I went to look at Watertown Urban Mission’s operations overall. It was clear they’re not there to strictly support people in hardest times; they’re there to help people get back on their feet.”

Watertown Urban Mission Executive Director Erika F. Flint said support from Knorr-Bremse Global Care pushes the agency over its $2 million capital campaign goal, 11 months ahead of schedule.

“This is really remarkable,” she said. “It’s been a pleasure getting to know Mike Hawthorne and his team at Air Brake and the team at K-B Global.”

Knorr-Bremse Global Care is based in Munich, Germany, and was established in 2005 “to assist people in need all around the world,” according to a company news release. Locally, Mr. Hawthorne said New York Air Brake has often matched, as a company, donations provided by employees to support various community projects. The United Way of Northern New York, American Heart Association, Thousand Islands Area Habitat for Humanity, Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Jefferson County and Pop Warner and Little League teams are some of the local organizations that have benefited directly from the company’s financial support and employees’ volunteer hours.

Mr. Hawthorne said New York Air Brake budgets for a certain amount of charitable community support each year, but tapping into Knorr-Bremse Global Care allowed the manufacturer of train control systems for the railroad industry to have a greater impact on the Watertown Urban Mission. He added that he hopes this grant “is the first of many” for the north country.

Ms. Flint said the contractor for the renovation project will be Continental Construction Co., Gouverneur. Pre-work has already begun, she said, and the agency hopes “to have a hammer in the wall, so to speak, in the next, few coming weeks.”

The food pantry and the mission’s Impossible Dream Thrift Store will be the first projects started. For the food pantry, Ms. Flint said, an additional entrance will be constructed, as will a more efficient way of moving food supplies from the basement to the pantry, which is on the ground floor.

An entire cosmetic facelift also will be completed in that area, which provides food to about 1,750 people each month.

The Knorr-Bremse Global Care grant will work similar to a construction loan, she said, where as work is done the nonprofit will receive installments.

Mr. Hawthorne said he was exposed through many requests for charitable grant awards to the company to the “magnitude of need in the area.” Without Ms. Flint and her team having made such an impression on him when he toured the agency, he said, the capital project wouldn’t have gotten the amount of funding it was awarded.

The Rev. Frederick G. Garry, pastor of First Presbyterian Church and the campaign’s co-chairman, said the latest financial contribution “opens up the door to the future” for the agency.

During food pantry renovations, which are expected to be complete by the fall, Ms. Flint said the pantry will switch to a pre-packed food distribution method, in which the amount will depend on family size. Clients will again be able to enjoy a shopping experience in the food pantry after renovations are complete.

While the large grant pushed the Watertown Urban Mission past its fundraising goal, Ms. Flint said support from organizations such as the Northern New York Community Foundation, other organizations and individual community supporters has made the project possible.

But more support still is needed, she said.

“It certainly would be appreciated if people continued to donate,” she said. “It’ll help offset costs, but will also go to the endowment.”

If people cannot afford a financial donation, Ms. Flint said, she would encourage those people to shop when they can at the thrift store, within the agency at 247 Factory St., as proceeds benefit the mission’s other programs.

To donate, drop off cash or send a check payable to Watertown Urban Mission, with “capital campaign” written in the memo line, to Watertown Urban Mission, 247 Factory St., Watertown, N.Y. 13601. Pledges can be made over five years.

Donations also can be made online via the mission’s website,

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