Greece church's ministry helps feed hungry - Catholic Courier

Greece church’s ministry helps feed hungry

Peggy Malvaso received an early Christmas gift last month, and it’s a gift that certainly will keep giving throughout the coming year.

Malvaso, who runs the Neighborhood Emergency Food Fund at Holy Name of Jesus Parish in Greece, learned the food fund had received a $500 Hunger Relief Grant from Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Rochester. Such Hunger Relief Grants are partially funded through the annual Catholic Courier/Catholic Charities Christmas Appeal, which supports the emergency funds of Catholic Charities offices and affiliated agencies across the 12-county Diocese of Rochester.

Holy Name of Jesus’ Neighborhood Emergency Food Fund provides grocery-store gift cards to people in need who reside within the four ZIP codes located near the Greece church. Malvaso typically gives out $25 gift cards to Aldi, a discount grocery chain, but occasionally provides Wegmans gift cards for people who need specific items that can’t be purchased at Aldi, such as certain sizes of diapers, she explained.

Most of the ministry’s funds come from Holy Name of Jesus parishioners, who contribute to the fund several times a year through specially marked collection envelopes. Malvaso, who has been coordinating the ministry for the past several years, tries to use those limited funds wisely to help as many people as she can.

"We give out one $25 card per family per month, which is nothing in today’s world. This $500 (grant) certainly will be a wonderful help," she said.

Most of the people who receive assistance from the Neighborhood Emergency Food Fund are not Holy Name of Jesus parishioners, said Malvaso, noting that the parish sees the outreach as an evangelization opportunity. Between 10 and 12 families usually seek assistance from the Neighborhood Emergency Food Fund each month, and the fund has helped 22 families throughout the past year, she added. Each family faces different circumstances that have forced them to need help making ends meet.

"It’s just all so individual to a particular person and their circumstances. I have a couple of families who have work issues, and other families where there’s mental-health issues or physical-health issues," Malvaso said, noting that the poor economy plays a role as well. "We’ve definitely seen a rise in this (need) since the economy has gone south."

When people come to the Neighborhood Emergency Food Fund for help, Malvaso asks them what other agencies they’ve been in touch with and tries to link them with other resources. She looks through the Rochester-area Community Wishbook, a listing of local charities’ wish lists and volunteer needs, to get a better sense of what kinds of organizations and resources are available, she said.

When an individual or family is facing poverty, their problems typically snowball, Malvaso said. If a mother loses her job, for example, she may have trouble paying for her car or for public transportation. That lack of transportation in turn can make it difficult for her to either obtain a new job or travel to an agency to receive assistance.

"When you’re poor it just reflects on so many aspects of your life. It just multiplies the problems," she said.

Malvaso gets irritated when she hears people make ignorant comments implying that poor people deserve the difficult life they face because they’re unambitious or trying to work the system.

"Alright, so there are probably some people out there who are like that, but I’m not the one that’s been placed in a position to judge them," she said. "So many people are on the verge of (poverty) these days, it’s alarming. People’s needs are real, and life isn’t easy out there. I just wish people could keep that in mind and try to follow their hearts a little and give them the benefit of the doubt."

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