The Domenica Foundation’s newest grantee is the SSJ Neighborhood Center in the Cramer Hill section of Camden. We’ve granted $10,000 to fund the center’s monthly food pantry for a year.
Every third Wednesday of the month, the Sisters of St. Joseph Neighborhood Center distributes food to some 250 families, of whom nearly half are senior citizens.
The food is donated by the South Jersey Food Bank and other generous organizations and individuals. Volunteers manage all the work on distribution day, from unpacking and sorting the food to bagging it up and giving it to Camden residents.
What isn’t covered is overhead costs. Every month, the center has to rent a truck to transport the food. It also has to buy reusable bags, dollies, carts, and such. With our funding, the center will be able to purchase these items and whatever else pops up.
For instance, our funding just went to buy new tents to keep food in the shade on these hot summer days. In addition, new coolers give volunteers and recipients access to cold water. Read more on the SSJ Neighborhood Center Facebook page.
The amount of food distributed to families depends on what is available from the food bank. A typical allotment is one bag of dried goods and one bag of meat, milk, and produce. According to Mary Berryman, SSJ, the center served 269 families with 12,533 pounds of food in May and 255 families with less than half that much in June. “Our families never complain about what they get,” said Sister Mary. “They know we do the best we can.”
Sister Bonnie McMenamin, director of the SSJ Neighborhood Center, said that some food recipients “also volunteer their time to help pack and distribute the food. It is their way of giving back—and we are grateful for their partnership!”
Sister Bonnie also expressed gratitude for the high school students who volunteer with the program. Many students showed up to help with the June distribution, even though school had already let out for the summer.
Recognizing that food is a basic human need, many organizations and individuals donate money for food to programs like SSJ Neighborhood Center.
We dug deeper. As Pepe Piperno, Domenica Foundation founder and president, put it, “Bags and dollies don’t grow on trees!” To continue its mission to feed neighbors in need, SSJ Neighborhood Center needs infrastructure support. We are honored to be able to supply this support so the center can continue to fight hunger in Cramer Hill.