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Two Religious Communities Unite in Shared Mission of Service

by Phil Pantano, Pantano & Associates, LLC

Catholic Charities, Temple Beth Zion celebrate Grand Opening of Town Square Food Pantry

Thu, May 21st 2015 04:00 pm
Bishop Richard J. Malone , bishop of Buffalo, offers a blessing at the entrance of the Town Square Food Pantry with Rabbi Gary Pokras, senior rabbi of Temple Beth Zion.
Bishop Richard J. Malone , bishop of Buffalo, offers a blessing at the entrance of the Town Square Food Pantry with Rabbi Gary Pokras, senior rabbi of Temple Beth Zion.
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GETZVILLE, N.Y., May 20 - Bishop Richard J. Malone, bishop of Buffalo, and Rabbi Gary Pokras, senior rabbi at Temple Beth Zion, presided over a Grand Opening celebration at the Town Square Food Pantry this afternoon, signifying an unprecedented partnership between two of Western New York's largest religious communities.

Located at 2710 North Forest Road in Getzville, the Town Square Food Pantry serves residents in the 14068, 14221, 14226, and 14228 zip codes. The pantry fulfills the mission to provide nourishment for the body, mind, and spirit of those in need.

"Helping each other when we are in need is among the most life-affirming things a person can do," said Rabbi Pokras. "Having the opportunity to engage in such important work in partnership with our Catholic neighbors increases the impact of both of our communities, and teaches us to see the reflection of the Divine not only in each other, but in every person we meet. For the blessings that come from this collaboration, I am grateful."

"Joining together with our Jewish brothers and sisters in a ministry so close to the hearts of both of our faiths, that is, returning people to a place of wholeness, is a fitting and fruitful endeavor," added Bishop Malone. "We are thankful for the vision and efforts of the many individuals who have united as a team to serve our neighbors in need who lack the most basic sustenance for life."

The Town Square Food Pantry is open Tuesdays and Fridays from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. It is a model for community collaboration. The pantry is one of seven food pantries operated by Catholic Charities of Buffalo. Donors to the Foundation for Jewish Philanthropies provided $80,000 in initial funding to help equip the pantry and make it  operational. The congregation at Temple Beth Zion contributed a large portion of food, and a network of community volunteers and organizations support the pantry's mission.

"The Town Square Food Pantry's successful start is the result of a solid combination of operational experience and administration by Catholic Charities and the impressive generosity expressed through financial, in-kind and direct volunteer support by the Jewish community," remarked Dennis Walczyk, Catholic Charities chief executive officer.  "In addition, Catholic Charities, Temple Beth Zion and The Foundation for Jewish Philanthropies are extremely grateful for the growing support from faith groups and other organizations. This kind of cooperation and teamwork will enable this ministry to thrive."

Amherst has the highest concentration of aging in the region. Whereas nationally 14 percent of the population is age 65 and older, the percentage of aging in Amherst is already 20 percent of the Town's population. Correspondent with a significant aging population is poverty. Today, more than eight percent of the residents in Getzville live below the poverty line.

The need is not isolated to the aging population. In 2014, the food pantries operated by Catholic Charities impacted 5,669 individuals. More than 2,000 individuals assisted were infants and children under the age of 18.
"An effort like this is not defined by religious faith. It extends beyond liturgical boundaries," said Pamela Krawczyk, director, Amherst Center for Senior Services. "There is true need in this community. Many of our neighbors live in an atmosphere of worry and doubt, wondering where they can turn for help. The Town Square Food Pantry was founded to help relieve that doubt."

To register on their first visit to the Town Square Food Pantry, individuals must bring a photo identification, proof of number of people in the household and proof of residency such as a utility bill or lease, as well as proof of income, including Social Security cards, Medicaid and food stamp benefits cards. Clients are only required to bring their photo identification, proof of income and residence, and the pantry card on subsequent visits.

Beyond food, the Town Square Food Pantry helps to connect individuals in need with other important services, such as counseling, mental health services, or clothing. For more information and to reach the pantry, please call (716) 391-2921.

Temple Beth Zion
Founded in 1850, Temple Beth Zion is one of the oldest and largest Reform congregations in the nation. Blessed with magnificent worship spaces and talented leaders, we are committed to continuing our legacy as a vibrant Jewish community. Our mission keeps us focused on people and Jewish values; we are dedicated to supporting our members on their own Jewish journeys and to serving our community at large.

The Foundation for Jewish Philanthropies
The Foundation for Jewish Philanthropies was established in 1911 and administers more than 1,200 endowments, charitable trusts and other philanthropic funds created by donors to serve broad charitable purposes. It also manages capital, reserve and endowment funds for 32 local Jewish social service agencies, organizations, temples and synagogues.

Catholic Charities
For 91 years, Catholic Charities has been making a difference for people of every faith and ethnicity in Western New York. Catholic Charities empowers children, families and seniors to achieve meaningful, healthy and productive lives. In all situations, Catholic Charities delivers support to meet immediate needs, and then assess its clients for other needs to ensure long-term success. It is the most comprehensive human service provider serving Western New York with 61 sites and 70 programs.  Catholic Charities receives high ratings from Charity Navigator for sound fiscal management and for quality of service from the Council on Accreditation.