Every cent counts when an organization is feeding the hungry.
Sister of Mercy Julia Norton found this to be true when the shelves of the Sister Regis Food Cupboard, a ministry of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Parish in Rochester, were bare for a brief period of time this summer.
Delayed funding of an annual Foodlink grant normally received in July and an increase in need were among the factors that led to the austere situation, said Sister Norton.
So when an additional 35 families, mostly ones that had moved to Rochester from Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, sought help from the cupboard over the summer, she wasn’t able to purchase food to donate to them, she noted.
The $1,800 Foodlink grant provided through the state’s Hunger Prevention Nutrition Assistance Program was pushed back to November because of a new grant schedule imposed by the state, explained Foodlink spokesman Mark Dwyer.
“Foodlink worked closely with our partners these past two years to communicate these changes in an effort to avoid any interruption in service for the people they serve,” he added.
To tide the cupboard over until the fall, Sister Norton said she received gifts of $3,300 and $2,000 from anonymous donors to keep the cupboard afloat.
Also this fall, the cupboard learned that once again it would receive a portion of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Parish’s $3,200 Hunger Relief Grant, which was awarded in November. The parish uses the money to help fund the cupboard and five other ministries.
St. Frances Xavier Cabrini is one of several city parishes and organizations that receive Hunger Relief Grants made possible in part through donations to the annual Catholic Courier/Catholic Charities Christmas Appeal. The 49th-annual appeal’s goal is $45,000 to provide emergency funds for Catholic Charities and affiliated agencies throughout the 12-county Diocese of Rochester.
Sister Norton said she will use the cupboard’s portion of the Hunger Relief Grant to purchase gift cards to be added to Christmas baskets provided to the ministry by several suburban parishes and the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department.
“We (serve) over 100 families,” she said of the basket distribution.
Grocery store gift cards also will be purchased with the $1,200 grant awarded to Mary’s Place, said executive director Charlsey Bickett. The ministry serves new arrivals to Rochester who are refugees or displaced individuals.
This year marks the third time that Mary’s Place has received a grant, she added, and the gift cards it provides are made available to families who have urgent needs.
“This could range from emergency food needs to diapers or hygiene products,” Bickett said. “Over the summer, we were able to give numerous cards to a single mother who fled a domestic violence situation in another state and came to Rochester with her eight children and little else. They were staying in a shelter while looking for housing. The staff at the shelter contacted us, and we were able to assist this family with many things, including groceries.”
At the Cathedral Community in Rochester, the funds are use primarily to purchase food for an annual Thanksgiving basket drive, said Marcus Ebenhoe, the parish’s social-ministry coordinator. The parish provides 200 baskets annually to neighborhood residents, he said.
“The majority of the food is donated by our parishioners, but every year there are additional things that we need to purchase,” Ebenhoe added. “Sometimes this is food, and other times it is gift cards so that families have the choice of buying the meat or other goods that they need.”
Any remaining funds are used to help purchase foods for the parish’s food pantry, Joseph’s Place, he said.