By Don Glynn
Niagara Gazette — As we've heard so many times, the Niagara area has many challenges that appear insurmountable. Through the years the story seldom changes: more job loss, lack of development, neighborhood blight and a municipal government that too often seems divisive and self-serving for strictly political reasons.
Another story that doesn't change either is the bright light that shines on this community 24-7. It's the agencies that pull together to take care of people in need. Two prime examples: Community Missions Inc., 1570 Buffalo Ave., and Heart & Soul, 939 Ontario Ave. Their steady hands make life better for local residents struggling to cope on a daily basis, especially at holidays. Unfortunately, due to the battered economy and dismal outlook for jobs, there are even more people here in dire straits that a couple of years ago.
Visit Heart & Soul any weekday and you'll find a hub for hundreds of local people afforded a good nutritious meal and a chance to enjoy a conversation with others. The agency expanded it operations to also provide breakfast for those in need.
To meet that daily demand, the agency depends heavily on the food supplied through the state Department of Health and the Food Bank of Buffalo. Sister Beth Brosmer, OSF, executive director of Heart & Soul, said the agency is in the second year of a five-year contract with the state program known as "Hunger Prevention and Nutrition Assistance." Aside from that program. Heart & Soul receives cash contributions as well as food donations from individuals and organizations.
While Heart & Soul actually closes for the holiday, it refers all its dining room guests to the Lord's Day organizers at the VFW Post, Seneca Avenue, the event hosted by Yvonne and Matt Davis. "They (the Heart & Soul) and their volunteers give us a big help every year," Ms. Davis said.
It's longtime volunteers like Eugene Pacia of Porter and Charlie Eames of Youngstown, both in their 80s, who help cover the bases for the Missions today. They will tell you what they've discovered over the years: They may be the only faces that a person receiving the meal will see all day.
The Community Missions complex with its main office in the former Hiawatha Inn, Buffalo Avenue, was founded in Niagara Falls in 1925. In earlier days, the mission was housed in the 200 block of Second Street, near the former United Office Building. In 2011, the local mission served 71,159 meals and provided more than 8,500 nights of care to families and individuals in need. Today, the Mission will be shuttling people from its Buffalo Avenue site to the Hard Rock Cafe, Prospect Street, which is sponsoring a Thanksgiving Day dinner for some 240 persons. In addition, meals will be delivered to 17 shut-ins unable to make it to the restaurant. Ms. Davis says the recipients are elated just for that brief visit.
Katie Trombley, public relations manager for the missions, said the word is out that turkeys are also needed to help families with their Christmas Day dinner. "We need help to get gobblers or hams," she added. If someone wants to drop off a turkey or ham — even a gift certificate for either — the mission staff would deeply appreciate it. Anyone with questions about such donations may contact Trombley at 285-3403, ext. 2225.
FOOTNOTE: It seems that this holiday now is noted more for the start of the Christmas shopping season than for a special time to give thanks for our blessings. In fact, the Black Friday "deals" at the mall, unfortunately, vie for much of our attention. Maybe we need to take a collective breath and reflect on the true meaning of this traditional feast day.
Happy Thanksgiving!Contact reporter Don Glynn at 282-2311, ext. 2263