Bishop Fisher tours East Side treasure, Response to Love Center
Bishop Michael W. Fisher blesses Reuben, a product of the American dream, at the Response to Love Center. With the help of the center and its staff, Reuben, a Colombian refugee, has earned a job, a car and permanent residence in Buffalo. (Photo by Patrick J. Buechi)
Bishop Michael W. Fisher made his first visit to the Response to Love Center on Oct. 20. There he saw the incredible work that helps feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and instruct the uneducated. Sister Johnice Rzadkiewicz, CSSF, the foundress of the East Side social service center, took the bishop on a tour of the facility where he blessed each room.
Sister Johnice introduced Reuben, a Colombian refugee who learned about the center while living in Vive La Casa. While being mentored by Michael Gilhooly, assistant director of the center, he began volunteering at Response to Love while studying for his TASC exam at the center. He did so well, he became an employee. Reuben now has a Green Card, a car and a bank account. “He’s really doing the American dream,” said Sister Johnice.
On the second floor of the former St. Adalbert School, 65 students are learning English as a second language. The bishop met students from Sudan, Bangladesh, Yemen, Burma and Pakistan. The center also offers citizen prep, cooking and yoga classes from award-winning teachers.
The first-floor intake is where clients are introduced to the staff. The pantry is well-stocked with canned goods, as well as the staples of peanut butter and jelly. They just got a fresh delivery of baloney thanks to the Wardynski Meats. The staff makes sure the food is mild enough to taste good to refugees with sensitive palates, so they know the food will be eaten.
The Mother Cabrini Health Foundation made a generous donation to the Supply Room, allowing clients to pick up needed household cleaning supplies.
“We want to teach the people about cleanliness, knowing that cleanliness is next to Godliness,” said Sister Johnice.
Lastly, they visited the Michael Perry Room, a former classroom now all-purpose room named for a social worker who passed away in 2015.
“The whole thought process of the room was to make it a beautiful place for our volunteers, our workers and our clients. I wanted to really grasp what they do here, what the center is all about,” said Kim Perry, Michael’s mother, who works at the center. Enlarged photos of the Felician Sisters and RTLC clients line one wall, along with a photo of Kim and Michael. The chalkboards are now covered with motivational quotes and prayers.
Bishop Fisher gave a blessing to the building and staff.
“Lord God, You came to give honor to the least, those forgotten, overlooked and misjudged. You came to give first place to the last, those left behind, misunderstood and undervalued. You came to give a warm welcome to the lost, to those who are orphaned, abandoned and destitute. Help us to be their ears to listen to their cries. Help us to be their voice speaking out love and acceptance. Help us to be Your feet walking beside those in need. Help us to be Your hands to clothe, feed and shelter them. You came for the least, the lost and the last of this world.”