PENFIELD — The crowd that filled St. Joseph Church March 14 politely applauded as Rochester Mayor Robert Duffy spoke about poverty as part of the parish’s community-service fair. But when he detailed a citywide cleanup, many ears perked up.
“We’re going to clean the streets of the garbage, plant plants and get rid of abandoned cars,” Duffy said. “We welcome anybody who would like to get involved.”
In fact, the city has scheduled six Clean Sweeps this spring, the first of which will begin at Eastman Avenue’s Lower Maplewood Park on April 22. All six Clean Sweeps will begin at 9 a.m. and end at 1 p.m. Duffy said he plans to attend, not for a photo opportunity but to work.
During his speech — which focused on pride, community and education — the mayor explained that Rochester is first in the state for unemployment, child poverty, homeless per capita, high-school dropouts and jobs lost.
“At one time we were number one in all good things,” he noted.
Duffy spoke about ways that people in the city and surrounding suburbs can put their faith into action and help alleviate poverty. He put particular emphasis on finding ways to keep children in schools and providing scholarships for those who want to further their educations. He touted such companies as Wegmans for offering opportunities for children to make money and earn college scholarships. He suggested that all businesses provide summer jobs for Rochester area youths to keep them out of trouble.
He added that having a sense of pride in the community is important for bringing in new jobs and residents. He also pointed out that if families reach out to another family or person in need that they can help combat poverty one life at a time.
“There is no easy answer (to poverty),” Duffy said. “But there are answers.”
Father Jim Schwartz, pastor, said he appreciated Duffy’s message.
“The mayor was very positive and enthusiastic,” Father Schwartz said. “He had a message of hope, the message of the Gospel.”
Following Duffy’s remarks, those in attendance made their way to the parish’s gymnasium where they received information about and signed up to volunteer for different religious and community organizations that help combat poverty. Organizations on hand included Foodlink, Bethany House, Girl Scouts of the Genesee Valley, St. Peter’s Kitchen and Habitat for Humanity.
Fran Morse, director of Dimitri House, a Rochester homeless shelter, said that her organization is always looking for volunteers.
“We need all kinds of support — bodies, money and food donations,” she said.
The seven-bed Dimitri House is relatively small, Morse said, but this allows the shelter to offer such personal touches as handmade afghans on each bed.
“I started out as a volunteer,” Morse noted. “It feeds me. It’s my church.”
Karin Wilson, volunteer coordinator at Cameron Community Ministries, said volunteers are always welcome to serve food or sort food donations. Cameron Community Ministries is an ecumenical urban community center that provides programs to meet basic human needs and serves hot meals to about 100 children and adults each day.
Father Schwartz noted that if people are to be involved with God then they should be involved with the concerns of God or, more specifically, people in poverty.
“The people in need are the privileged receivers of God’s love,” he said.
EDITOR’S NOTE: For information on the city Clean Sweeps, call 585/428-5990. For information about the organizations at the St. Joseph event, contact Pastoral Associate Michelle Castelli at 585/586-8089.