By G. Michael Dobbs
CHICOPEE – Michael and Tammy Jay worked for years to support themselves and their three children. More recently though, their jobs were lost and their unemployment benefits were cut. What has helped sustained them is the assistance they’ve received from Lorraine’s Soup Kitchen and Food Pantry.
The Jays were introduced to the press at the announcement of this year’s Catholic Appeal of the Diocese of Springfield. Bishop Timothy McDonnell said the goal this year was $3 million in response to the increased needs of the diocese.
Lorraine’s is one of the organizations that received funding through the Appeal. In 2013, the effort raised $2.5 million and Lorraine’s received $15,000.
Other organizations that were helped include Gray House in Springfield, The Bureau for Exceptional Children and Adults-Jericho in Holyoke and the Genesis Spiritual Life Center in Westfield.
McDonnell said the diocese is extending the goal because of the harsh winter and its toll on people.
“This past year was very, very difficult,” he said.
The bishop added that for the first time the diocese would also be calling for volunteers to help organizations as part of the Appeal. “This is in response to Pope Francis’s call to be of greater help,” he said.
Katherine Buckley-Brawner, the executive director of Catholic Charities, reminded that although the worst part of winter is over, with the coming of April 1, low-income residents of the area would no longer be protected from electricity and gas shut-offs.
“We are bracing ourselves for the effect of winter going into the spring. Food and fuel will continue to be an issue,” she explained.
Kim Goulette, executive director of Lorraine’s said that without the help from the Appeal the kitchen and food pantry would be unable to serve low-income residents.
The need is getting greater,” she said. She added the pantry is currently helping 70 families and serving 80 people dinner each evening.
McDonnell said of the increased demand at Lorraine’s, “People in the past who were givers, are now receivers.”
Among those eating at Lorraine’s regularly are the Jays who have, on the average, three dinners a week there.
“It’s tremendous what they’re done for us,” Tammy Jay said.