BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW-TV) — It is a new year with new hope for Sister Mary Johnice CSSF, the director of the Response to Love Center in Buffalo. "It is a dream come true. It is unbelievable where God took me in my life."
Renovations are now in the final stages that will allow the center to once again permit people inside its building to use the dining room and food pantry - once the Erie County Department of Health gives its final approval.
"The pandemic for many of us has been quite a challenge," said Sister Johnice.
The Response to Love Center had to prohibit the public from entering its facility when the coronavirus emergency hit in March 2020. As a result of that, individuals who need food are forced to wait outside while staff and volunteers try to accommodate their needs in Buffalo's changing weather conditions.
"We had awnings out there and two of our tents blew away. I don't want them under an awning standing there in the cold, in the rain, in the snow," added Sister Johnice.
It was then that the Felician nun and her staff decided to move ahead with a $400,000 renovation of the 123-year-old former school building so it would have a COVID-compliant kitchen, food pantry, intake area, bathrooms, and a large dining room where people could be seated in a socially distant manner.
It is a life-long dream for Sister Johnice who joined the Felician sisters when she was age 18 - even though her father doubted she would last.
"He said, "I don't know if you are going to stick it out there. You are a little wild, like to have a good time, and you like clothes"," joked the nun during a previous interview with 7 Eyewitness News about her life in 2017.
Despite her father's reservations, Sister Johnice is now celebrating 55 years with the order and is more committed than ever to help those who are hungry.
While the renovations will hopefully allow those needing food to avoid standing outside in the bitter cold, Sister Johnice is hoping the improvements will create an opportunity for both the current and future generations who need help.
"We won't let it fall because all the staff and volunteers are very, very dedicated. The mission will go on," added Sister Johnice.
Donations are helping pay for the upgrades to the Response to Love Center and more are welcome to help defray construction costs.