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Advocacy News Parish Life

Holy Cross and Roswell community project heats up


Things are really cooking at Holy Cross Parish thanks to Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center. The Buffalo institution donated a new stove to the Lower West Side church and brought its kitchen up to code with a new exhaust fan.

A cancer hospital and a largely Hispanic church may seem to be an unlikely alliance, especially surrounding kitchen appliances, but they share the common goal of helping the community.

A couple years ago, Roswell began going out into various, particularly diverse, communities in order to look for ways to inform the to reach populations of the services the downtown hospital provides.

“They were looking for ways so that they can penetrate, in this case, the Hispanic community, and they offered an opportunity to assist non-profit organizations that work with the Hispanic population,” explained Deacon Miguel Santos, who serves at Holy Cross. “Just so happens that Holy Cross Church just embarked on a capital campaign so that we can renovate our kitchen that was built in the 1940s. That being the case, obviously it needed major replacement and renovation.”

When the staff of Roswell’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion became aware of all the different functions that Holy Cross Parish performs on the Lower West Side, they took interest.

The church not only houses its own Head Start program, but is also provides hot meals as a Code Blue emergency shelter, housing up to 80 people in the darkest nights of winter and providing them hot meals. The church also serves as a community center, recently hosting an FBI community forum and training for all religious leaders on dealing with hate crimes and vandalism on faith-based property. 

“Again, we used our kitchen in order to provide a hot soup for lunch and refreshments,” said Deacon Santos. “So again, this caught their attention. They saw the condition of our kitchen and they offered to renovate our kitchen, along with, our financial campaign in order to supplement some of the costs. We were able to save quite a bit of money because Roswell was able to get donations such as an architect to come on in and draft the spacing in our kitchen. They were able to get donations or greatly reduced cost for the new stove that we had.”

With Roswell’s help, the Holy Cross kitchen was able to rechannel the ventilation system, install a new exhaust fan, and replaced a window that had become extremely brittle. The ceiling was lowered to save energy. They put in a brand new floor and installed a grease trap.

The parish also bought a new stove, and a new freezer is on the way.

Why would a hospital primarily know for treating cancer patients turn handyman?

“For one, what they do in the community. It fits exactly with what we try to do in the community; and that’s open our doors to everyone who needs or wants to come in,” explained David Scott, director of Roswell’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion. “We view taking care of the community beyond our clinical practice. Health and wellness goes beyond that. We make sure people are warm, people are fed. We look at the health and wellness of our community holistically.”

Roswell plans to plug into that community spirit at Holy Cross and use the church as a bone marrow testing site twice a year to create a bone marrow donor directory. Hispanics are of a mixed-race background, Deacon Santos explained, their mixture of genes makes it extremely difficult to find a perfect match when it comes for anyone needing a bone marrow transplant. Certain cancers can be eradicated by finding that perfect match.

Church leaders will reach into the community to inform the people, both of the need and opportunity of being tested. 

“We will on occasion have a date open that all of us will go out canvas our communities in order to engage people to come on in so that we can create or grow the bone marrow directory. Should someone need a transplant, we hope that we may either have someone already through this directory or just continue to get the word out because this is sorely needed,” Deacon Santos said.

“What we’re finding is a lot of people, especially in the Hispanic community, who were needing bone marrow transplants, were having difficulty finding matches. It wound up being too late when they finally did find a match. Timing is of the essence,” said Scott.