Newest St. Gianna Molla Center opens in Perry
The Office of Pastoral Ministries opened its seventh St. Gianna Molla Pregnancy Outreach Center, branching into Wyoming County.
Cheryl Calire, the director of the Office of Pastoral Ministries, cut the ribbon on the new center, located in the former St. Joseph Parish rectory, part of St. Isidore Parish in Perry on Aug. 18 in front of nearly 50 volunteers.
With locations in Buffalo, Cheektowaga, Fredonia, Olean, Lackawanna and Niagara Falls, the centers provide material, emotional and spiritual support to mothers, fathers and families in need, during and after pregnancy.
The new center was a vision of former pastor Father Michael LaMarca, who wanted to see the empty building used to help the community. He reached out to Calire, who jumped on the idea of adding a center to Wyoming County.
In a rural area filled with farms and mom & pop shops, 11 percent of the population live below the poverty line according to Census.gov.
“We are incredibly poverty-struck in this area,” said Theresa Kehl, co-director of the center with her husband. “The addition of this center is going to be so influential for our families and in particular babies and young children. I’m so excited that this is happening.”
“Being in a rural setting has its own challenges just because you don’t necessarily have the bus services or transportation service. But in terms of the need; it is just as prevalent out here (as in Buffalo). It’s just spread out over a larger land area,” added Deacon Mark Kehl.
The center is tied in to supportive agencies, such as the Department of Social Services, the Department of Health, Catholic Charities, and Community Action that can refer families to the Gianna Molla Center to pick up clothes, diapers, formula and Christmas toys. The centers are not state or federally funded, so they do not have income requirements to provide services.
“We feel that if people have been referred here, there’s a good reason why they’ve been referred,” Calire explained. “I can tell you in the 15 years I’ve been doing this, there’s been one or two times when we’ve had to say, ‘Is this really necessary?’ God is good. And for the most part, people who are referred here are truly in need.”
Deacon Kehl has been excited by the reaction from volunteers and the community. Shelves are already filled with diapers, and three upstairs bedrooms have bins of donated clothes waiting for a client.
“We’ve had a strong outpouring of support,” he said. “People want to get involved, and we don’t have anything like this out here. So, the parishioners and even the community members are incredibly supportive, because they know the need. They live it. They have family members who are in need. They see their benefit and they want to support that.”
Co-directing the center is now Deacon Kehl’s ministry of charity.
“I can’t tell you how much I appreciate Deacon Mark and his wife, Theresa, for stepping forward and really taking on this call,” Calire said. “It’s not something that you take lightly. Working with me and working with what we have to accomplish is not always an easy thing, but it is very rewarding.”
Father F. Patrick Melfi, pastor of Family 14, estimates that the center was already 99 percent complete when he came aboard on July 1.
“It’s wonderful in the sense that it gives our community the opportunity to minister to those in need. It’s a wonderful thing. I’m glad the community embraced it,” he said.
The center currently needs fall clothes for ages newborn to 14. Call 585-969-4150 to make an appointment to drop off donations.
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