Niagara Gazette — For Helena Bergeron, the lunch room at Community Missions of Niagara Frontier, Inc. is a blessing.
The mother of five, with three children still under her roof, said her visits to the mission on Buffalo Avenue in Niagara Falls a few times a week to help her family get by.
"Sometimes we get low on food," she said.
Bergeron has been out of work since November after a back injury, and before that she was only working part time. Her husband still has part-time work, but with two daughters and a son in the house — ages 15, 13 and 10 — it can be hard to keep enough food in the fridge, she said.
"Every little bit helps," Bergeron said.
The lunch program is part of the not-for-profit's crisis services program, which Mission officials say was recently in jeopardy due to financial challenges being faced by the organization as a whole.
Community Missions representatives say changes in the Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement policies are a primary reason why the organization has struggled in recent years and currently owes hundreds of thousands of dollars in back taxes to the Internal Revenue Service.
Earlier this week, city lawmakers agreed to give Community Missions a boost with a one-time shot of casino revenue totaling $150,000.
Pastor Mark Breese, the organization's director of ministry and community relationships, is letting out a sigh of relief this week after learning of the council's approval of the funding. He believes the funding will help the organization avoid cuts in key service areas moving forward.
"Everybody here that we're serving is on the edges of the community," he said.
The mission is the city's largest and most comprehensive provider of crisis services, offering emergency housing, the soup kitchen and parole re-entry counseling for the city's homeless.