Based on reports he gets from Rochester-area outreach agencies, Marvin Mich knows that the level of need remains acute among the local poor.
“The demand is not lessening, and our poverty rate doesn’t seem to be lessening,” he remarked, noting a rise in homelessness along with the number of folks simply struggling to make ends meet.
“Sometimes they’re working poor. They don’t make enough (money) to pay rent and buy food, if they’re getting minimum wage or just above that,” said Mich, who serves as Catholic Family Center’s director of advocacy and parish social ministry.
In addition to city-based poverty, Mich added, “It’s the suburbs that are seeing the need as well.”
Helping to ease the burden are Hunger Relief Grants utilized by numerous churches and agencies in Monroe County. The monies are derived in part from the Catholic Courier/Catholic Charities Christmas Appeal currently taking place.
This year’s list of grant recipients are: Bethany House, The Cathedral Community, East Rochester Community Resource Center, Holy Apostles Parish, Holy Cross Parish, Holy Family Parish (Gates), HOPE Ministry, House of Mercy, Life Solutions, Mary’s Place, MEEK (Maplewood Edgerton Emergency Kupboard), Peace of Christ Parish, St. Charles Borromeo Parish, Saint’s Place, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Parish, St. Martin’s Place, St. Peter’s Kitchen and Spencerport Ecumenical Food Shelf.
According to Mich — whose office coordinates disbursement of the Hunger Relief Grants — a total of $17,827 was allotted in 2017 to these organizations. Approximately $4,000 came from the 2016-17 Christmas Appeal campaign, with the rest derived from CRS Rice Bowl, a Lenten faith and fundraising initiative operated through Catholic Relief Services.
Mich explained that individual grant amounts are determined by a review committee representing various parish, diocesan and community entities. The committee examines each applying agency’s stated need along with a report of how it put its previous year’s grant to use. Individual totals generally remain constant, with the majority ranging between $500 and $1,000. Many of the current recipients have obtained Hunger Relief Grants for the past several years, Mich added, although new organizations are always welcome to apply.
Although Catholic parishes and agencies make up much of the beneficiary list, eligibility also extends to ecumenical- and community-based entities. Guidelines for new and existing recipients include using funds solely for direct assistance to the needy and not for any other agency expenses; providing relief in the form of goods — usually food — rather than cash; and striving to ensure that no one is left wanting at Christmas, even though funding can be used at any time of the year.
Mich acknowledged that several local agencies do opt to utilize their Hunger Relief Grants around now, offering Christmas meals and other initiatives so their patrons have a happier holiday season.
“For the people in the food-cupboard business, (Christmas) is the prime time. This (funding) allows some of the food cupboards to be a little more special at holiday time,” he said.