PASSAIC Catholics who have contributed to Partners in Faith can have a sense a pride when they visit 153 WashingtoAcross the diocese, thousands upon thousands of faithful Catholics have joined together in support of Partners in Faith (PIF), the diocesan capital and endowment campaign, pledging $61 million to reach out to the poor, foster Catholic education to children, assist priests in healthcare, restore the diocese’s Mother Church, the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist and support every parish of the diocese.
As pledges continue to be fulfilled, thanks to the commitment of so many generous Catholics in the diocese, projects at Catholic Charities agencies are already under way. Already, much-needed and long-overdue improvements have been made to the buildings and programs at several diocesan Catholic Charities agencies.
Recently, a PIF disbursement of $100,000 was made to Catholic Charities for the needs of Catholic Family and Community Services (CFCS) to offset expenses to relocate and expand the Father English Food Pantry here; the Department for Persons with Disabilities (DPD) for the capital construction and furnishing the new Giuliano House; and Straight and Narrow to replace aging windows at its Alpha Women and Children Unit at 396 Straight St. here.
At CFCS, $50,000 of PIF funds were used to offset the expenses of the cost to relocate the Father English Food Pantry. For the last decade, the food pantry at Father English has provided its clients with food and a sense of dignity by providing a “supermarket” style food pantry complete with points and shopping carts. Formally called the Bob and Carol People’s Choice Food Pantry, (named after longtime former director, Deacon Robert Vesota and his wife), the Father English Center allows clients to pick the food they want rather than just handing out bags of groceries to its clients.
Since the opening of its food pantry, the number of clients has continued to grow each year with many families struggling to provide basic food needs for their children. Deacon Robert Head, site director of Father English, said, “We are up to 1,300 families a month coming to the food pantry at Father English. That is more than 5,000 individuals!”
Because of this steady growth in the number of people seeking food, plans are underway to relocate the pantry to a nearby storage facility on Spring Street here, which is between Father English’s main offices and CFCS’s main offices near the cathedral. The site of the current food pantry is 600 square feet while the new site will be 3,000 square feet.
In the past, the Spring Street space was used to store furniture for clients. In 2005, it held furniture collected for Hurricane Katrina victims. Through the years, the facility was used for other storage needs and recently, following last year’s successful food collection on the Feast of Corpus Christi from parishes throughout the diocese, excess food was stored there. Because of the enormous success of the Corpus Christi food drive last June, the food pantry was able to serve its clients throughout the summer months with the food they needed. Traditionally, during the summer months due to fewer donations, the pantry would run out of food.
Diane Silbernagel, executive director of CFCS, suggested the idea to change the venue of the food pantry to diocesan Catholic Charities board members to improve the services for clients and make the operations more efficient.
“We are working with a board member to do this project and currently working to get permits from the city of Paterson,” said Silbernagel. “I am optimistic that the project will be completed by the end of the calendar year. The Partners In Faith support is critical for maintaining the existing facilities and for taking the initiative to make significant improvements in the service delivery area space and facilities.”
For the Department of Persons with Disabilities, $30,000 in PIF funds has been allocated as the agency begins construction on the new Giuliano House in Oak Ridge this month. This new house will be a ranch style home that will meet the needs of four new residents with advanced developmental and physical disabilities. Giuliano House further expands the services of DPD and the building of this new home coincides with the agency’s 50th anniversary.
Currently, DPD operates nine group homes and two supervised apartments throughout the diocese for adults with developmental disabilities. The department also operates Gruenert Center, a vocational day program for 50 men and women in Lake Hopatcong. Its main offices are located in Oak Ridge.
At Straight and Narrow, $20,000 in PIF funds will offset the cost of the more than $30,000 needed to replace aging windows at the Alpha Women and Children’s Unit at 396 Straight St.
“The old windows are poorly insulated and during the winter we cover them with plastic to try to keep the rooms warm,” said Joe Duffy, president of diocesan Catholic Charities and executive director of Straight and Narrow.
In addition to the Women’s Unit, Straight and Narrow also has residential programs for men and adolescents, and outpatient treatment. The agency also operates several community programs, including childcare centers and a family success center.