ROCHESTER — More than 40 neighbors of the Father Tracy Health & Wellness Center took part in a Thanksgiving meal at the center a week before the holiday.
Rudy Rivera, the center’s director, said he hopes the event becomes an annual tradition.
Parishioners from St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Parish helped plan, collect donations for and prepare the Thanksgiving meal that was served Nov. 14.
Nine parish volunteers served nearly 30 pounds of turkey, 10 pounds of mashed potatoes, several quarts of gravy and dressing, arroz con gandules, and eight pies as well as rice pudding.
“We scored points” with neighbors, Rivera said. “And all we did was feed them.”
Emmanual Wilson said the meal was delicious. A nearby resident, he said a friend told him about the center, and he has been coming by for help with treatment for substance-abuse issues and to volunteer.
“It was very generous what they did for the community,” Wilson added. “I enjoyed the meal very much, and it was a nice place to eat it in.”
Rivera and the volunteers had set up several tables in the center that they decorated with Thanksgiving-themed tablecloths and napkins.
“This (center) is a bona fide living example of the will of God, who takes his people and sends them out to the mission field,” he said, noting that parishioners are going outside the walls of St. Michael Church, a St. Frances Xavier Cabrini worship site, to meet the people they talk about helping.
“And when they see their faces, they see nobody is a bad individual … based on his (life) choices,” Rivera added.
The church is located a block north of the center at 821 N. Clinton Ave. and aims to help people in the area who are affected by the opioid crisis, including offering resources for drug users seeking treatment.
Gloria Forgione, a member of the parish’s peace and social-justice committee, said she had the idea for a Thanksgiving meal after hearing that the center was being utilized by many people in the area. She offered the meal to Rivera as a gesture of solidarity and fellowship.
“The guys I’ve been hearing about going to the center are really stepping up,” she said. “They’re looking at the center as a kind of haven, to take some refuge, or get straightened out if they so choose. … Some guys are helping pick up needles (on the streets) and others are using. If people go to recovery, that’s wonderful. But it’s not the point.”
Additionally, the parish has been organizing a sandwich drive to offer a steady stream of assistance with feeding people, Forgione said.
“We hear Father Bob (Werth) talk about getting out of the pews into the community, so we thought this was something we could buy into and help organize,” she added of the sandwich drive.
Many parishioners have responded, and parish officials are creating a schedule to deliver 25 sandwiches twice a week, Forgione said.
“We want to keep it simple initially … and wait and see how it goes,” she said.
Rivera said the late Father Laurence Tracy, for whom the center is named, must be celebrating in heaven, as the community has taken a shell of a building and turned it into a place that neighbors know they can turn to and find someone who cares.
“We treat everyone with dignity, respect and love — those are our core values,” he said. “Those were the values Father (Tracy) exhibited in his life.”