Updated 06/27/2012 06:20 PM
Cathedral food pantry to close and reopen under new leadership
It will be under new management, so to speak. But the food pantry, now operated by the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on East Onondaga Street in downtown Syracuse, will stay open. Our Kat De Maria explains.
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SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Fruits, vegetables, pasta, soup. Four days a week, it's is the routine of the volunteers at the Cathedral Emergency Services food pantry: Packing bags that go to hundreds of families in the community each month.
"We once had a little boy, 12-year-old boy, come in and tell me he was hungry and needed food. So that tells me there's a strong need," said volunteer Charlotte Dlugolenski.
The need is so strong, it's been costing the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception more than $125,000 a year to run the pantry. Msgr. Neal Quartier says the Cathedral and four other churches have been discussing joining resources and are now coming together as Cathedral Square United Ministries to take over the pantry.
"No one church can do this all by themselves anymore. And so we need to be ecumenical in many different ways and the food pantry is one way we can start doing this," said Quartier, who serves as the Cathedral Rector.
To accommodate the transition, the pantry will close Thursday and reopen July 17th.
"It's really busy. I'm sure people know it's our last week for two weeks and then they'll change over to a new regime," Dlugolenski said.
When the pantry reopens, it will be for reduced hours and with the volunteers, but not the staff, who work there now. As far as everything else, it'll be figured out as they go.
"There's so much involved. And you can't teach someone overnight what to do," Dlugolenski said.
"It might take a little while to get things up, there might be a few hiccups, but Catholic Charities is helping us with the transition," Quartier said.
As staff and volunteers hand out their last bags of food, for now, they're struggling internally with the layoffs of three longtime employees and the uncertainty of how the new service will look and work. But everyone involved agrees the most important thing is the pantry stays where it is and the bags still go out into the community.
"It's definitely the best and right now the only way to keep going forward. And I think we'll keep continuing to reformulate how we serve and make it better," said Cathedral Business Manager Paul Drotar, who is also on the transition team.
The churches involved in the collaboration are the Cathedral, Park Central Presbyterian Church, St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral, Prince of Peace Missionary Baptist Church and Plymouth Congregational Church, with the guidance of the Cathedral Square Development Corporation.