A local food pantry is celebrating its 30th anniversary Thursday night at its annual recognition dinner. Heart, Love and Soul Food Pantry and Dining Room in the City of Niagara Falls was started by a prayer group from Sacred Heart Parish.
But as WBFO & AM-970’S Eileen Buckley reports, the center’s mission of feeding the hungry has grown into several outreach services to improve quality of life for those in need.
The smell of meat loaf and mash potatoes fill the air in the Heart, Love & Soul dining room. Michael Daloia has been operations manager for just over a year.
“It’s very humbling because makes you realize how much you have in your own life…and how much the simple basic things that so many life without on a daily basis,” said Daolia.
Daolia said he is always dumbfounded by how upbeat many of the clients are when they arrive for food and other assistance.
“This place is their home in a lot of different ways…just for example, today…one gentleman I talked to today I said how are you doing today. He said everything is perfect because I'm here and that was just an inspiring moment for me," said Daolia.
Heart, Love and Soul is operated by the Sisters of Saint Francis. Sister Beth Brosmer leads the organization.
“The need is never going to end is it?", asked Buckley. "It doesn’t seem like it is, but I’m so glad that we can continue to be here and be supported by the community, because many of our guests don’t have anywhere to go,” said Brosmer.
Dianna Pryor is a Niagara Falls resident. She was working at three jobs, but was forced to go on disability. Pryor just lost her mother and is now carrying for her elderly father who has health complications.
“It’s really hard to keep food in the house every day, and week by week to try feed him, and a diabetic also." I do my best that' That’s why I’m so glad this program is here for those who are less unfortunate to have food," said Pryor.
Another Niagara Falls resident, Mike Butler, also utilizes the services for himself and his children. But he said he is far better off than other clients receiving help from Heart & Soul.
"It helps a lot of people...and I think the Heart & Soul is doing really well in helping people out," said Butler.
“We’re finding that people who are newly unemployed people that are not able to find a job are finding the need to come here and you will have people come in and they have these odd looks on their faces, and you’ll say ‘could I help you’ and they’ll say I’ve never been in a place like this before,” said Brosmer.
The dining room staff serves up 150-daily lunches and more than 600-individuals are served by the food pantry each month.
But it is not just feeding those in need. A few years ago the agency teamed with Mount St. Mary’s Hospital in Niagara Falls. A nurse is on duty to provide some basic health care services and monitor chronic conditions for clients.
"And I say always beyond food. Food is important to all of us. It gather us, but our guests come with other concerns that are equally important," said Brosmer.
Local donors keep Heart, Love and Soul pumping by providing not only monetary support, but many food items and products. One of its biggest supporters is the Glynn family of Niagara Falls, owners of Maid of The Mist. James & Mary Glynn will be honored at Thursday evening's celebration along with several other major donors.
"Jim comes in every so often and says what's going on," said Brosmer.
Mostly recently the agency was able to add a haircutting area. It includes a beautician style sink again provided by a donor.
"So then a local plumber put it in...we have a local hair stylist and she comes in," said Brosmer.
In the Catholic Song, Whatsoever you do, is a clear example of Heart, Love and Soul’s mission and those who are giving back to the Niagara Falls community.
The agency needs to raise at least $200,000 per year to maintain its 30-year misson.