Its move was a short one, but the significance of having a new home is huge for Tioga County Rural Ministry.
The ministry began operation Sept. 24 at 143 North Ave., in the village of Owego. A ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house were due to take place Oct. 31. According to Sister Phyllis McGuire, RSM, executive director, the new facility measures 4,700 square feet, all on one floor. That’s more than triple the size of TCRM’s previous location at 60 North Ave., where it had been for 24 years. Even so, Sister McGuire said space has filled up rapidly.
“If you saw this place, you would wonder how we had all this stuff in 1,400 square feet,” Sister McGuire remarked.
TCRM’s current location is best accessed by taking Central Avenue to South Depot Street. The ministry was closed for two weeks during the moving process, which was aided by numerous volunteers. Clients obviously knew how to find the new building, because Sister McGuire reported that 25 families showed up for food assistance the first day it reopened.
“We also had cheese and crackers and punch, and we welcomed them to join us,” she said.
Sister McGuire said the large white structure became available for rent over the summer, and the ministry’s board of directors voted to move, having hoped for years to find a larger facility to serve the growing number of people being served by TCRM.
“The needs are increasing, I hate to tell you,” Sister McGuire said.
Sister McGuire listed several other advantages offered by the new facility: Staff members can have their own offices instead of being crowding together; the ministry no longer has to rent additional space for holiday giveaway initiatives; and off-street parking allows discreetness for clients as well as the possibility of staging a food giveaway. Yet TCRM has not had to leave downtown to gain these advantages, meaning that it remains accessible for a larger number of people with limited transportation options. Sister McGuire noted that the building’s owner, Dan McNeil of Cortland, has “been just been super to us.”
This marks the ministry’s third home since its founding in 1978. It began in the basement of Owego’s St. Patrick Church before moving to 60 North Ave. in 1983. TCRM serves thousands of people per year, covering Tioga County and its surrounding area. It offers an on-site emergency food pantry; financial assistance for fuel, utilities, medical expenses and rent; holiday gifts and food baskets; home repairs; transportation to medical appointments; and home visitations to deliver groceries and other goods. The ministry is vital for people who are out of work; single parents; those lacking medical insurance; the elderly; and shut-ins. TCRM also helped many area residents after the flood of 2006.
The nonprofit outreach is supported by Tioga County’s Catholic churches and other denominations, and relies on financial and volunteer support from the community at large. The Sisters of Mercy have been involved with TCRM throughout its history.
Sister McGuire, who joined the ministry 1996 and has served as executive director since 2002, acknowledged that she’s very comfortable with the ministry’s new setting.
“It feels like we’ve been there a long time,” she said.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Tioga County Rural Ministry is in need of volunteers to assist in such areas as answering the phone, filing paperwork and waiting on food clients. Hours are Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The ministry also welcomes donations of cash, food and supplies. TCRM is located at 143 North Ave., Owego, NY 13827. Call 607-687-3021.