HAMLIN — From the outside of Life Solutions of Hamlin Inc., there appears nothing unique about what once served as an engine-repair shop.
Inside, however, is where “miracles happen all the time,” said Patti Frawley, a longtime volunteer, noting that she has witnessed many examples of folks’ needs being met.
Frawley is a parishioner of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church, where Life Solutions originated in 1982 — during the parish’s first year of existence — and was known as Hamlin Bread and Thread. The social ministry now operates through the help of area churches and community organizations and is completely volunteer-run, serving the towns of Hamlin and Clarkson in northwest Monroe County.
In 2010 Life Solutions moved to its current 3,000-square-foot facility at 1696 Lake Road (Route 19). The increase in space has allowed it to collect and store larger amounts of donated food and — after having previously existed solely as a food shelf — also begin a thrift store. Open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursdays and Saturdays, the store offers second-hand items at low prices, such as knick-knacks, jewelry, toys, housewares and books; a wide array of clothing is sold for just $3 per bag. All store items are donated, with the proceeds going toward Life Solutions’ operating expenses.
Another Life Solutions feature is the help it offers clients in moving toward self-sufficiency, through budgeting advice and referrals for low-cost health insurance and other social services. Yet the ministry’s most vital component remains its emergency-food supply, allotted to clients by appointment. Two rooms at the facility are used to store canned, boxed, refrigerated and frozen goods. In addition, a mobile food pantry is provided by Foodlink, a regional food bank, every fourth Saturday during the spring, summer and fall months.
Recently, Life Solutions experienced its busiest stretch of the year. The Angel Tree project, for which Frawley is cochair, provided donated gifts for more than 220 children whose families are served by the ministry. Other holiday efforts included the distribution of food baskets as well as a bazaar offering inexpensive Christmas gifts.
Community support via donations and volunteerism is vital to Life Solutions’ success. For instance, the ministry recently received a $1,000 Hunger Relief Grant funded in part by the Catholic Courier/Catholic Charities Christmas Appeal. Meanwhile, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish regularly runs bulletin notices listing requested items for Life Solutions, and many parishioners are involved as volunteers. (Frawley said new volunteers are always appreciated.)
Father William Spilly, pastor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, rates the ministry’s 36-year existence as a group success.
“Thanks to the efforts of the churches and volunteers who make up Life Solutions, progress has been made here in helping those who are poor,” Father Spilly said, noting that the Hamlin region is among the most impoverished in Monroe County.
Acknowledging Life Solutions’ ecumenical flavor, Frawley said volunteers don’t debate their religious differences: “What we talk about is what everybody should be talking about — what can we do to help these people?” she remarked.
She added that all clients are treated with compassion and respect regardless of their life circumstances: “I have not, in all of my times, heard any of the volunteers judge anybody who comes here,” she said.
Rather, Frawley said volunteers draw inspiration from such occurrences as a thrift-store customer who paid for a lady’s item because she didn’t have enough money; a woman and her son showing up with a carload of groceries to donate when supplies were low; a person appearing with several bags of girls’ clothing that fit the granddaughters of a woman who minutes before had arrived looking for clothes for the children, for whom she was just granted custody; and a man who tearfully thanked volunteers for a fishing pole he received for his son for Christmas, saying it was the only gift the boy had wanted.
“The miracles that happen here, you wouldn’t believe,” Frawley said.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Contact Life Solutions at 585-964-7420 or email@example.com, or visit www.lifesolutionshamlin.org.