Catholic Charities offers calm after the storm
Catholic Charities of Buffalo is currently in the midst of its 2023 appeal. This year’s goal is $9.5 million, the same goal met and exceeded last year. As Catholic Charities seeks support for this year’s campaign, leaders are showcasing just some of the 57 programs they facilitate in 80 locations throughout the Diocese of Buffalo.
On Wednesday, Feb. 8, Western New York Catholic was welcomed into the Lovejoy Food Pantry where upon arrival, the pantry was receiving a delivery of Lucky Charms, and a lot of it. Twenty-four pallets of the popular breakfast cereal arrived thanks to a generous donation from General Mills’ Buffalo Plant.
Catholic Charities is currently managing nine food pantries throughout the diocese. The Lovejoy facility is among the larger providers.
“We are one of three pantries in that zip code, and it’s whatever’s closest to you is where you go,” explained Carolyn Stewart, the supervisor of food pantries and thrift stores for Catholic Charities. “We see a range of families, singles, seniors, 18-, 19-year-old kids who are now ‘adults,’ single moms, single dads, everything really. And we help them with food, but also connections to Ladies of Charity if they need clothes or household items.”
By Stewart’s estimation, Lovejoy served 150 households in January alone. The neighborhood is considered a food desert, meaning there is limited access to affordable and nutritious food items.
Poverty is high in this part of the city, and the recent Christmas blizzard further exposed that. Darlene Sery, manager of the Lovejoy Food Pantry, said demand goes up when local children are out of school because households struggling to make ends meet rely on schools providing breakfasts and lunches when they are open.
“Parents have to think about their breakfast meal when they don’t normally have to because they get the breakfast in school. So, we (also) have to think about the lunch meal when the kids are out for two weeks,” Sery explained. “With the cereal coming and the eggs coming, it helps our low-income families, and they’re getting ready now to cut the food stamps, so they won’t get that extra bump moving forward.”
The pantry welcomed some other special guests – Bishop Michael W. Fisher, who was given a tour by Catholic Charities president and CEO, Deacon Steve Schumer.
The bishop praised the work of the staff telling them what they do is an example of the Corporal Works of Mercy found in the teachings of Jesus Christ. These works include feeding the hungry.
Also welcoming the bishop were the staff of Catholic Charities’ services at the Rich Street facility in Buffalo. These include mental health wellness services.
“We’re like, we’re a very mid-level of care, so we’re like below a hospital setting or day treatment program, but we’re above somebody that just goes to like a private psychiatrist,” said Miri Salamone-Burnett, supervisor of the Rich Street Clinic.
The clinic is located inside a former convent on the St. Mary of Sorrows Parish. Each door uses noise-making devices that block out noise from inside the room, preventing anyone from overhearing confidential conversations.
Also located at the Rich Street site are another food pantry and local WIC offices. WIC, meaning Women, infants and Children, is a federally-funded nutrition support program for eligible low-income mothers and their children. It’s facilitated locally by Catholic Charities.
Local WIC coordinator Jamie Felt, along with Deacon Schumer briefed Bishop Fisher on their workload, which involves 24,000 cases.
This is currently the 99th annual Catholic Charities Appeal being held during its centennial year celebration. For more information, log on to ccwny.org.
Listen to Michael Mroziak reporting.