Small grants help ministries in big ways

ROCHESTER — The number of families served by Sister Regis Food Cupboard on Bay Street — a ministry of Our Lady of the Americas Parish — has nearly doubled from last year.

That is why $600 of a $1,200 Hunger Relief grant the parish received is a big help around the holidays, said Sister of Mercy Julia Norton, who operates the food cupboard.

Hunger Relief grants are partially funded using proceeds from the annual Catholic Courier/Catholic Charities Christmas Appeal, which raises money for the emergency funds of various Catholic Charities offices and other affiliated agencies throughout the diocese. Our Lady of the Americas was one of several Hunger Relief grant recipients serving the northeast area of the city; Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church received a $600 grant.

Sister Norton said that the Sister Regis Food Cupboard served about 700 families this year, which she believes is a result of the continued hardship due to the poor economy. The cupboard is available to anyone in the surrounding neighborhoods as well as Our Lady of the Americas’ parishioners, she noted.

With a portion of her half of the parish’s Hunger Relief grant, Sister Norton said that she buys food for baskets that she will distribute around Christmastime. With the rest, she purchases gift cards from local grocery stores. She also receives toy donations from a few area parishes including Irondequoit’s St. Margaret Mary Church, she added.

Irondequoit’s Christ the King Church will provide baskets separately for the residents of Mt. Carmel Apartments, located in the former Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish, which was the original site of the food cupboard.

Half of her portion of the grant money was already spent on Thanksgiving food baskets for 95 families, said Prisicilla DeJesus, a pastoral minister at Our Lady of the Americas. While St. Margaret Mary parishioners provided turkeys for the baskets, Our Lady of the Americas provided the rest of the food for the holiday meal, she added.

She said that she will use the remaining $300 for gift cards to distribute to families before Christmas.

"We are still receiving calls," from families, DeJesus remarked.

St. Martin’s Place, a ministry of the Sisters of St. Joseph that provides meals for city residents in need year round, will provide a Christmas Eve brunch with its $500 Hunger Relief grant, said Sister Clare Ehmann. Gift bags of personal items also will be distributed.

"Any contributions assist us tremendously in continuing our services at St. Martin’s," Sister Ehmann said. "We are seeing more faces, and yes, several are new ones."

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