A unique collection drive for the holiday season is underway and it is not about food. WBFO's senior reporter Eileen Buckley tells us volunteers are collecting new pillows to provide comfort to those in need who seek assistance at the Response to Love Center.
"It is something we never think of because we take it for granted," described Sister Mary Johnice, a Felician Franciscan nun who leads the Response to Love Center on Kosciuszko Street off Broadway on the city's East Side.
Sister Johnice tells WBFO "Pillows For Their Head" was an idea generated by two girls volunteering their time during a past Christmas dinner at the Response center. As the young ladies were handing out gifts, candy and other items, they realized those seeking assistance might need a new, fluffy pillow to rest their head on.
"I said I think that's a good idea, but let's start a project and see how that would work and the girls said 'Sister, how about prayers and pillows for Christmas?'" explained Sister Johnice.
Sister Johnice said often times those sleeping in shelters or boarding homes will roll up a jacket, coat or blanket to use for sleeping.
"And then I kind of looked at the people who come to our building. I look at the big, burly guys who are sleeping in a rooming house or a guy whose living in a house who would never think about it, maybe having a pillow that is used from year to year. So what I did ask people to do — if you are going to bring us a pillow, it would be nice if you could write a little prayer, too," Sister Johnice said.
"I have never met anybody as special as sister is," remarked Rich Gurbacki of Grand Island, a volunteer. "I'm 70 years old and so I've seen and met a lot of people, but she is about as special as they come."
Gurbacki is leading this effort throughout the community. This past Sunday he appeared at the Walden Galleria, collecting new pillows and notes from citizens.
Gurbacki explained how others can help the cause.
"People can bring us fresh pillows. We are happy to take them," Gurbacki said, noting that cash donations could also be made. "We have some friends with JCPenny who have really stepped up, and they're going to sell us some very nice pillows for your donation of $10."
Sister Johnice and Gurbacki will be collecting donations at Larkin Square on Friday, December 2nd from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., at Flying Bison Brewery on December 2nd, 9th, and 17th. They will also be at St. Stephen's Roman Catholic Church on Grand Island on December 18th.
Gurbacki spends a great deal of time with his young grandchildren. He's wants to teach new generations how to be generous.
"I want them to learn from that and take a lesson from away from that. There's a whole lot more than just our world and the community has needs just beyond our family," Gurbacki said.
"Throughout the whole year, people are hungry, people are in need every single day," Sister Johnice stated.
Sister Johnice notes the need is our Buffalo community is constant. Giving is often highest during the holiday season, but unfortunately drops off the rest of the year.
"We can get thousands of things coming our way and we could get an overabundance, and that's good, but if we can work with the daily needs of people — the people who we see every day — that's the response that we want to have," Sister Johnice said.
The distribution of the new pillows will be held on Christmas day at the Response to Love Center and beyond that event for those who seek help from Sister Johnice's outreach.