GENESEO – Tucked away at 11 Franklin St. is the InterFaith Center. It is a hidden gem and a community center of sorts aiming to give students and others a place to relax and unwind.

“It is critical for them to realize that Geneseo can be a safe place for them,” said Board of Directors co-Chair Sarah McLean.

The center was built in 1969 and back then was aimed as place to help foster a relationship between students at the SUNY campus and the Geneseo community. It is not owned by the college but instead is an independent non-profit.

Recently donated to the center was a number of tables, chair and other furniture items. It is something that McLean said she hopes will make the center feel more welcoming for all students.

“I realize that this is a big issue for our students of color. I don’t think they feel like Geneseo is open to them. I want to help them,” said McLean.

The space is open to both students and members of the community.

“I am hoping that when their doors open in the spring that we might be able to offer them some quiet study space, a place to relax and come and stretch out.

“I know some students can be restricted as to where they can gather and hang out,” said McLean.

In addition to hanging out, McLean said she is also hoping to provide alcohol-free activities for students.

“Over the years I have met so many students that are looking for a place to relax that is not alcohol driven. Just a place to come and play board games or just talk,” said McLean.

Snacks and other tasty treats could be provided by the center in the near future. “We have a fully functional kitchen. There is a possibility down the road to be serving snacks and things like that,” said McLean.

Unlike what some people might think, she also said that students using the center do not have to be religious.

“Currently our mission needs to adapt and grow. I don’t think our students identify with a faith but they are really hungry for fellowship and community,” said McLean.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and other restrictions the center does not have set hours and is operating an as needed basis. Another issue facing them is their driveway which McLean says is in need of repairs.

“I have had three or four companies come and they have said if they put down a surface coat it is going to be anywhere between $35,000 or more,” said McLean.

So far she said they have raised about $8,000 for their annual summer tag sale and are calling on the community for donations from their fall campaign. It is money that she said will go a long way to help providing a safe and welcoming space for students and people in the Geneseo community.

“ I think most students today would say that they do not identify with a particular faith but are spiritual and that is OK,” said McLean. “I just want to open the doors and make people feel comfortable.”

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