Appeal helps Rochester ministries

ROCHESTER — The Sisters of St. Joseph hope that its St. Martin’s Place ministry will help more people this Christmas.

With money from a $450 Hunger Relief Grant funded in part by proceeds from the annual Catholic Courier/Catholic Charities Christmas Appeal, staff from the ministry — which provides hot meals for men, women and children in need — serve a Christmas brunch, said Sister Clare Ehmann, St. Martin’s codirector. In prior years, the brunch was held on Christmas Day, she said. Since Dec. 25 falls on a Sunday this year, Sister Ehmann said the brunch was moved to Dec. 23.

She hopes that will erase any confusion about whether St. Martin’s is open on Christmas Day, which may have kept people away last year, Sister Ehmann added. More people seem to come out for St. Martin’s Thanksgiving Day meal, she remarked.

"It will be interesting to see what happens," Sister Ehmann said.

Generally, St. Martin’s has seen more people coming in for its meals, which are served on Tuesday mornings and Wednesday and Friday at lunchtime, she explained. In recent months, the soup kitchen also has opened on the third Thursday of the month for a supper program, she added.

"It hasn’t quite caught on yet," Sister Ehmann said. "But the people that do come really seem to appreciate it. They’re grateful."

The sisters may expand the supper program to twice a month but will likely wait until the spring, she added.

"If we heard or foresaw that there is a need, that could change," Sister Ehmann noted.

In addition to providing meals, St. Martin’s also offers training to the men and women it serves to help them obtain jobs. Also, once a week, staff members receive donations from Hegedorns Market and the people who are served by the ministry can shop for food, Sister Ehmann noted.

"It not only helps provide us with breakfast," she noted. "Most of it is put out for people to come and get a bag to take home."

That kind of service helps draw in more people who might feel more comfortable going to a food cupboard than a soup kitchen like St. Martin’s, Sister Ehmann said.

"People are (struggling)," she added. "We want them to feel welcome, to be at home, to form community. … (And) that naturally seems to happen."

Sister of Mercy Julia Norton said that the number of people coming to the Sister Regis Food Cupboard is on the rise as well. She said she plans to use her $1,000 Hunger Relief Grant to purchase supermarket gift cards to add to the Christmas baskets that will be put together for 120 families this year.

She reached that number of baskets by calling the families who received baskets last year, and only two said they didn’t need baskets this year, Sister Norton explained. She said that she may add a few more names from lists gathered by staff at St. Francis Xavier Cabrini Parish’s Our Lady of the Americas Church, where the baskets are distributed. The baskets also include clothing and toys, Sister Norton added.

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