History of the Center

The African American Center for Cultural Development of Olean, New York began with the common dream of five separate people from different walks of life. For some 15 or so years, Ola Mae Gayton, Bev Twitty-Terrien and Della Moore felt the need to celebrate the rich history of African Americans in a way that would benefit the whole area, while celebrating the rich history of African Americans county-wide.  Ola, Bev and Della tried several different venues looking for a permanent place to house and share that rich history, but to no avail.  In 2009, Mark Sabella, executive director of NeighborWorks Home Resource organization, an organization that helps to create better neighborhoods by buying ‘need of care’ houses they revitalize while helping people become homeowners through education and help, had the opportunity to buy the former Bethel African Methodist Episcopal church at third and Green Street in Olean (the Bethel AME church building had been put up for sale and had stood vacant since 2005).  Meanwhile, Carrie Wolfe, director of the Youth Program at Christ United Methodist Church of Olean, had developed an affinity for church building and its neighborhood because it reminded her of growing up in Niagara Falls. Mark and Carrie belonged to the same church and when, in a staff meeting, Carrie expressed her feelings for the former church building, Mark told her that he had just bought the church and agreed with Carrie that that would be a perfect place for a cultural center, but felt that another component was needed to make it have a better chance of working. That component being people who knew the neighborhood; had a connection with the church and a background of African American and Olean history. During this time, Carrie had asked Della Moore (whom she had never met) to be involved with CUMC’s Daily Vacation Bible School and during their conversation, Bethel AME building came up and Della told Carrie that she had been a member of Bethel since 1972 and told Carrie about Bev and Ola Mae, Carrie told Della about her and Mark’s discussions about the church. It was out of those discussions and the desires of five different people with a single dream of sharing a worthwhile history and thus lifting everyone pridefully up that the African American Center for Cultural Development of Olean was born. That is how Carrie Wolfe, Bev Twitty-Terrien, Mark Sabella, Ola Mae Gayton and Della Moore became the founders of the African American Center for Cultural Development. Five people brought together by a common dream to serve their community.  These five volunteers have grown into dozens more willing to help make the Center a living place for cultural development.

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