Sacred Heart Parish Community Outreach marks 10 years of service as it announces it is in ‘dire need’ of financial support
Sacred Heart Parish Community Outreach marks 10 years of service as it announces it is in ‘dire need’ of financial support

Provided photos Our Father’s Kitchen Food Pantry provides a three-to four-day supply of groceries, including meat, eggs, dairy, milk, cereals, grains, fresh vegetables and fruits. The pantry feeds nearly 1,700 people each month.

By Nancy Kriz
MONROE — Quietly celebrating their 10 years of service to the community during a holiday party yesterday, Dec. 20, were volunteers of the Sacred Heart Parish Community Outreach Program.
Parish Outreach Director Betsy Johnston said group quietly marked this milestone because “we never toot our own horn and we’re very grateful for the support the community has given us.”
But now, Johnston noted, the group is facing its own financial challenges and she needs the community to know its continued support has never been more critical than it is now. For the first time in 10 years, its funding is at an all time due low due to the increased number of people it is serving.
“We are in need of help to keep going,” she said, “We are in dire need. All from our community and surrounding area who come to our door receive some type of assistance. We can’t continue to give unless we have it to give.”
In addition to helping others, the outreach program has its own challenges, like a new boiler, electric, gas and other bills, similar to what some of its clients face.
Begins with Wednesday dinnersIn fall 2009, under the direction of the Rev. Tom Byrnes, Sacred Heart Church’s pastor, and in keeping with the church’s mission of “Building a Community of Hope,” Johnston and Jonelle Rizzi developed and implemented Monroe’s only soup kitchen, Our Father’s Kitchen.
“Support from the community was overwhelming as we opened our doors to serve those in need of a hot, nutritious meal,” Johnston said. “Every Wednesday evening, a meal is served at the Chapel of the Sacred Heart, the epicenter of Sacred Heart Parish Outreach.”
Those Wednesday evening dinners were the start of bigger things, she explained.
“From this little seed, this program has grown exponentially and the lives it’s touched is more than nutritional value of food,” said Johnston. “It’s the friendship, the emotional, physical and spiritual needs of the person. Sacred Heart is the spearhead, but also involved are very other churches and synagogue in this community. There’s nobody left out, I think.”
'Monroe is alive'
Johnston is gratified by the community’s involvement.
“It tells us that Monroe is alive, and we pull together to help each other,” she said. “A teachable moment is that the more you give, the more you get to give, meaning it’s the snowball effect of goodness. You start this little act of kindness and it multiplies when other people get involved and others want to help. It’s beautiful.”
Why does the need continue?
“There’s a whole group of people who fall in-between the cracks of being totally impoverished and candidates for service and those who make above the limit but not enough to pay their rent and other needs and still have food,” Johnston said. “A room in a house now is $650 to $700 (to rent). Look at what minimum wage and multiply that and see how far you get.”
Choices: Rent versus foodShe told the story of a woman who called to say she needed to make a choice between paying rent and putting food on the table. A week ago Wednesday, she was invited to come to Our Father’s Kitchen for a hot meal and was given a box of food items along with grocery gift cards she could use to supplement the donated items to give to her.
“We never turn anyone away,” Johnston stressed. “There’s an unexplainable joy in serving others. We have 100 very committed volunteers and another 150 who volunteer as often as they can.”
Among those involvedGroups who are noted for their involvement include parishioners of Sacred Heart and students of Sacred Heart School; the Monroe-Woodbury School District; Ebner Plumbing; ShopRite and Stop and Shop; Bagel Boys; Bagel World; The Bruderhof; The Food Bank of the Hudson Valley; Monroe Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts; The Ancient Order of Hibernians; Ladies AOH; the Monroe Knights of Columbus, Martial Arts; The Gift Box; Village Auto Works, JAVA Joes; Positanos,; The Louis Allen Family Foundation, the Monroe Temple and many monthly donors who choose to remain anonymous.
“If we didn’t have them, we wouldn’t be able to serve,” added Johnston. “Through service, your life has meaning. We hope there are people out there who want to help us help others.”