BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — “When you look out in a neighborhood like ours, there are a lot of people who are frustrated, anxious, sad, lonely, lost a loved one — we want those people to come to us,” remarked Sister Mary Johnice.
In a Buffalo neighborhood, in the Broadway-Fillmore District, that has been knocked down for years by extreme poverty, Sister Mary Johnice works tirelessly through the Response to Love Center to help those in need.
Sister Johnice says the center was established in 1985 after she met Mother Theresa.
“She says go find your Calcutta and we found it — it's a destination and it is our Calcutta. But it is a Calcutta that's bright, caring and compassionate,” reflected Sister Johnice.
Sister Johnice says many from the neighbor visit daily for meals and more.
“People made this their home and it's their destiny. They want to be here,” replied Sister Johnice.
Sister Johnice says she wants to make Thanksgiving Day very special.
There will be still be take-out, but for the first time since the COVID pandemic people will be allowed back inside a newly renovated dinning hall for Thanksgiving.
“I am really concerned about people who are homeless — people who are in rooming houses — people who have no family. They will be invited to sit down,” explained Sister Johnice.
COVID protocols will be followed — with two to a table.
“We’re going to serve them a real special meal just so that we can enjoy community together,” Sister Johnice noted.
A full Thanksgiving Day feast will be prepared in a brand-new kitchen at the center.
“When people come in, they're going to be astonished at the new look — it's bright — it's so shinny,” declared Sister Johnice.
The center raised $400,000 in what Sister Johnice is calling an effort “for the community and by the community”, and not a drop of government funds were given to refurbish the kitchen, dinning hall and restrooms.
“Whether it was a few coins from children, large donation, maybe from a foundation or a family — that’s how this was paid for,” said Sister Johnice. “People would bring themselves and stand at the door and say here's a check or here's some coins — here's some money.”
All to help renovate parts of a more than 100-year-old building — a place that Sister says “lifts the spirits of the poor”.
“They were like the sheep that were forgotten and now the good Shepard came and we're going to help them out,” responded Sister Johnice.