St. Joseph's Neighborhood Center

There is always a story

It is 97° today. They say it will be in the 90s for the next few days. Sometimes these hot summer days are referred to as the “dog days of summer”. I always wonder where expressions like this come from. An article I recently read had the explanation. “The Greeks and Romans believed that Sirius, the brightest star in the constellation (Canis Major-Great Dog) ushered in an evil season in late summer, one that boiled seas and soured wine and sent people and livestock I into fits. In that season, the Dog Star and our sun hung together in the heavens, one rising, one setting, which, they believed, produced more heat than the planet could stand.”

We have a scientific explanation now for late summer heat, but the phrase is ours still. It is an old story with a truth that we understand.

Here’s another backstory. The Center is fortunate to participate in Panera Bakery’s “Day-end Dough-Nation” Program. Just like their TV ads say, each store, every night, gives away all the days remaining baked goods to a not-for-profit. Every Sunday night at closing, a Center staff person picks up every last crumb not sold during the day at the Twelve Corners Panera – bags and boxes of baked goods.

Last week in the mail, Panera corporate sent a form they needed completed for tax purposes. Included in the letter was an itemized list of all the baked goods we had received in 2014. With a value of almost $22,500 we had picked up and distributed to our clients 10,716 baked items. Now think about that donation happening from every store, every night, all year in the United States. Thank you Panera!

There is always a back story. There always seems to be “more to the story than meets the eye.” I have had the privilege over the past few weeks to work with a small team of people organizing and coordinating the new Rochester Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative (RMAPI). The Initiative is a pilot program out of the Governor’s office to comprehensively address deep rooted poverty. Rochester is the fifth poorest community of its size in the United States. Fifty-one percent of our children live in poverty. This entrenched poverty is documented, persistent and a scourge on our overall health as a community.

RMAPI seeks to be different than all other programs in the past. Past attempts which did not substantially move the poverty needle have led to some skepticism about RMAPIs chances. But, I see a widespread level of commitment at this opportunity that I have not seen before. And, I see community members who are impacted by poverty taking this effort seriously and taking part in the planning, organizing and implementing.

There are many moving parts to RMAPI. For me, the core story of the effort is the starting point – people from the community coming together, naming the barriers to rising out of poverty and naming the solutions to overcoming these barriers and formulating recommendations to implement the solutions.

Everyone is at the table, community members, all levels of government, business, human service agencies. As Phase I of planning wraps up, it is evident that the table needs to get bigger by the active participation of everyone in the Rochester-Monroe community.

The Neighborhood Center will stay at the table. As supporters, you are part of our backstory. We need you and your support to keep going on a daily basis, and to be part of the long-term solution to moving people out of poverty in our Rochester home. Thanks for being a part of the story. Keep cool!

–Christine Wagner, SSJ


St. Joseph's Neighborhood Center
417 South Avenue • Rochester, New York 14620
(585) 325-5260 Fax (585) 325-3017
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