The people of St. Patrick’s Parish in Seneca Falls and St. Mary’s Parish in Waterloo have sent 81 tons of food, clothing and other supplies to the needy in Nicaragua over the past 12 years, thanks in large part to Philip and Florence Liberatore and a dedicated group of volunteers. Since 1993, the Liberatores, parishioners of St. Patrick’s, have spearheaded the parishes’ joint social-ministry committee’s participation in the Nicaragua Project.
The project supports the Nicaraguan Mission, which is run by Ann Marie Zon, a lay volunteer missionary from the Buffalo area who for the past 26 years has spent nine months of each year working with the needy in Boaco, Nicaragua. Each year she returns to East Amherst for the summer, although she "just can’t wait" to get back to Nicaragua each fall, said her father, Louis Zon. About 18 years ago, she began using her time at home each summer to collect goods to distribute to the poor she lives with in Nicaragua, he said.
Louis Zon said since that time, many organizations, businesses, individuals and churches have become involved, including St. Patrick’s, St. Mary’s and Ss. Peter and Paul Parish in Elmira.
"They’ve been absolutely fabulous," he said of the parishes’ involvement.
Philip Liberatore said that as of July 31, the St. Patrick’s and St. Mary’s joint social-ministry committee had collected more than three tons of supplies to send to Nicaragua. Both Philip and Florence said the community has been very generous. Peter Koch, the owner of Koch’s Body Shop in Seneca Falls, even bought a shed and placed it in the parking lot of his business so people would have a convenient place to drop off donations, they said.
The Liberatores and a team of volunteers from the parishes meet at the Women’s Interfaith Institute in Seneca Falls every Saturday morning throughout the summer to sort and pack the week’s donations. By late July, the institute’s basement was filled with boxes of clothing, footwear, nonperishable food, bedding and linens, household items, school supplies, religious articles, toys, sewing supplies and personal-care items.
At the end of August, these boxes and the donations from Elmira will be shipped to Buffalo, the Liberatores said. From there the donations will be sent to Newark, N.J., where they will be loaded onto the boat that will take them to Central America, Louis Zon said.
Coordinating the program for the parishes’ joint social-ministry committee has been a big time commitment, but the Liberatores said the experience has been very rewarding.
"We’re glad to do it. We know it’s for a good cause; we’re helping people who really need it. It’s very encouraging, very inspirational. We know our time is not in vain," Philip said.
Ann Marie Zon always sends pictures of the people who’ve been helped by the donations, the Liberatores said, noting that it’s amazing to see how the Nicaraguans value items that average Americans might easily cast aside. Many Nicaraguans will proudly wear T-shirts that have anything to do with the United States or Seneca Falls, they said.
"Isn’t it sad? We have so much and they have so little. … There are some of them that save their shoes to go to church on Sunday," Florence said.
"The rest of the time they go barefoot," Philip added.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Donations for the Nicaragua Project may be dropped off in the shed in the parking lot at Koch’s Body Shop, 2085 Routes 5 and 20 in Seneca Falls. For a list of things the mission needs, contact St. Patrick’s Parish at 315/568-5203 or St. Mary’s Parish at 315/539-2944.Tags: Faith in Action, Seneca County News