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September 21, 2011

Gandhi Institute finds new home in PLEX neighborhood

mapOn Oct. 2, in addition to celebrating the birthday of its namesake, the M. K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence at Rochester also will be recognizing an important milestone in its history. This fall, the institute will open the doors to its new home in the Plymouth-Exchange neighborhood in Rochester.

For the past four years, the institute has been housed on the University’s River Campus in the Interfaith Chapel. But with three staff members, two full-time Mennonite Volunteer Service workers, and a growing number of community volunteers, the institute has outgrown its current space. So, Kit Miller, director of the institute, began working with community members from the PLEX neighborhood to identify spaces that would situate the institute in the community they hope to serve and allow its programs to grow.

After looking at several properties, the institute opted to convert a house located at 929 S. Plymouth Ave. The property, which is owned by David Skinner ’79, a chemist with Xerox, and David Knoll, mortgage officer and principal founder of Genesee Co-op Federal Credit Union, was built in the 1890s but has been vacant for more than 17 years. Skinner and Knoll live a few doors away and have restored more than 20 other properties nearby, including those housing Ant Hill Cooperative and Small World Bakery, as well as housing for families and students.

In addition to its size, which Miller says will allow institute staff to easily and comfortably work in the space, one feature of the property really caught her attention. Adjacent to the house is a three-quarter-acre lot, on which the institute and landlords are planning a potential community garden site and outdoor meeting space.

Costs to renovate the house are being offset through fundraising. Rochester design firm Merkel Donahue has offered pro bono support to create an interior design plan for the house.

House party for Gandhi’s birthday

Members of the University community are invited to the Gandhi Institute’s “House Party for Gandhi’s Birthday” on Sunday, Oct, 2, from 2 to 5 p.m. at 929 Plymouth Ave. Guests will have a chance to participate in Gandhi-inspired art projects, listen to the SWAN jazz band, enjoy a performance from RIT’s Banghra Dance Company, and more. Children are encouraged to attend. Call 276-3787 for more information.

Miller says the institute has worked to strike the right balance of maintaining a strong presence on campus (they’ll maintain an office in the Interfaith Chapel and will use the Gandhi Reading Room in Rush Rhees Library for events and programs) while being able to work directly in the community.

“We’re excited about creating an on-the-street presence in Rochester so close to campus,” says Miller. “We also have a steady stream of requests from young people around the world to come for learning and service. This new space will expand our ability to say ‘yes’ to those requests.”

President Joel Seligman is supportive of the institute’s move. “What could be more appropriate than the M. K. Gandhi Institute both being part of the University of Rochester and the Rochester community? I congratulate Kit and the institute for taking the lead and making this happen.”

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