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Many volunteers make big jobs seem easy on Day of Service


It was a good day to serve others. The sun shined. The warm air blew the leaves about.  The good people of Western New York put the Christian ethic of helping others to practice.

Karen Fox, Mary Olsen and Amanda Fox help sort and stack tomato sauce and soups in a new wing of the Akron Newstead Food Pantry. Volunteers from St. Terea of Avila Parish and Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, both in Akron, worked together to organize the new space. (Photo by Patrick J. Buechi)

In honor of the Diocese of Buffalo’s 175th anniversary, Bishop Michael W. Fisher asked that Oct. 22 be a Day of Service to demonstrate the generosity of Jesus across the diocese.

The family of Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Peace, St. Mary and St. Teresa of Avila, picked four projects and allowed their parishioners to sign up for their choice. The majority of St. Teresa’s volunteers chose to visit the Akron Newstead Food Pantry. Located at the Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church longer than anyone can remember, the pantry has outgrown its confines. So, volunteers are moving the food and shelving from two rooms on one side of the church, to two larger rooms on the other side.

“Everything had to be done in the two days, so yesterday we started to empty the rooms. We had to empty the rooms down there, empty the shelves,” explained Sharon Waff, who co-chairs the pantry with Jean Dolph, from St. Teresa’s. “Today, we’re moving all the shelves, dating all the food to make sure nothing is expired, and then restocking the shelves with all the food.”

“Which is where St. Theresa’s comes in,” added Dolph.

The pantry welcomed 25 helpers from St. Teresa’s who came in as manual labor to restock the shelves in the new pantry rooms.

The parish already had a good working relationship with the pantry. You’ll find 15 volunteers there on distribution day, the first Tuesday of every month.

The pantry’s 104 clients, some of which are large families and Native Americans, receive one bag of groceries, one bag of cold food, and one bag of paper products and cleaning supplies. On Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter, they also find turkeys and hams added to the shopping bags.

The pantry is in the center of a farming community. During harvest season, local farmers bring in produce for the clients.

“Akron is a very generous community,” said Dolph.

The Sisters of St. Joseph were glad to see a group from Our Lady of Peace stop by to help rake up leaves, weed the garden, and mulch the trees.

“It’s a blessing. The work they did here today is a great help, and that allows me to do other stuff – work on the flower bed, make sure the grass is maintained,” said Mark Koss, the groundskeeper, who usually takes care of the 12-acre campus by himself.

Rob Gill, one of the volunteers from Our Lady of Peace, brought his two daughters to the Clarence convent.

“Why not? Just giving yourself,” he said. “It’s a beautiful day and give back to the community. I try and be an example to the kids by spending time helping out others,” he said.

Some teenagers came to earn needed service hours for confirmation.  

 “We wanted to help local areas with just yard work and just cleaning things up,” said Myles Gisell. “It was fine. I’d do it again.”

Michael Kaufman, a voluinteer from Our Lady of Peace Parish in Clarence, hauls a load of walnuts cleared from the 12-acre grounds of the Sister of St. Joseph Convent. over two dozen volunteers came out on Oct. 22 as part of the diocesan-wide Day of Service. (Photo by Patrick J. Buechi)

The parish helps out the convent when needed. Father Walter Szczesny, pastor of Our Lady of Peace, celebrates Mass for the sisters and would bring the Holy Communion during the months of Covid lockdown. The church is about two miles from the convent.

“We reached out to them when we heard about the Day of Service. We were wondering what could we do in our area. I double checked to see if there was a need. They said yes, there was a big need for it,” Father Szczesny said.

The project went by quicker than expected due to all the eager volunteers. They finished with the lawn about two hours earlier than anticipated.

“Everyone was hanging out raking leaves. It wasn’t a heavy lift,” said Gill.


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