Skip to main content

Food distribution continues on at St. Anthony's, recipients grateful

By Joanne Beck
st anthony's food distribution dec. 2023

In a brisk sub-30 wind, about 30 volunteers gathered in the St. Anthony’s parking lot Wednesday morning taking care of business as usual for those folks in need lined up ready and waiting along Liberty Street.

Despite the city’s request to find an alternate location for its twice-monthly food distribution, City Church instead cautiously continued on, but with more emphatic reminders for participants to be mindful of where they parked as the line slowly moved its way toward the distribution center in the parking lot. A city vehicle was spotted leaving the scene, and Pastor Ryan Macdonald confirmed that a city official had visited the lot. 

“I’m just thankful that they’re allowing us to continue,” he said. 

A week prior, City Manager Rachael Tabelski confirmed that the city requested that City Church find another location for its distribution due to neighborhood and school complaints about traffic issues as a result of participants that line up on the street for the distribution early in the morning. 

Macdonald objected to the request for reasons including Becca Albrecht and Mattie Cooper. The women have no vehicles and have walked to get their food rations ever since the distribution began during COVID, they said. Both agreed they don’t know what they would do without the extra help.

“Me and my husband are on disability and have nine grandkids that we help out. One nine-year-old stays with me,” she said. “I get juices and vegetables. And sometimes we have cleaning products that they gave out this weekend. And it's just a big help in the community. We’re seniors, and we don't get enough for Social Security, you know. Even though we have two incomes coming in, it's so hard, because with all the medication and all, so you figure this here is a big help from the grocery store because the price of groceries is just outrageous.

“And I just love this church, the stuff they do. So I rent from the church,” she said. “So it’s really nice, it would be a blessing if they leave this here. Oh, we need it. We walk here every week.”

Albrecht’s husband works 40 hours a week, and they can still use all the help they can get, she said, to offset rising food costs for their family, which includes two little ones. 

“Ryan, he’s great, he does so much for this community. And, you know, to take it away, it would be heartbreaking, because us families need it in this time, it’s everything. It definitely helps with the food costs,” she said. 

She could understand that for residents on the street, there may be some issues with traffic congestion, but added another viewpoint.

“I mean, I'm sure for some people that live on Liberty, it’s a hassle. But, you know, if you think about it, we need to help one another and just be kind to each other, especially those, you know, Ryan and Pastor Marty are trying to help the community to get through to the needy families that need it,” she said.

They each had a small child’s wagon to haul the food back to their apartments, as did others who walked to the pick-up. Megan Little doesn’t have a vehicle either, and she walks everywhere, including to her job at a nearby restaurant. 

“I’ve come to the food distribution twice, but I've been coming to City Church, the service at 10 o'clock down at City Church, for about a year now. And because my stepson’s grandma is big in the City Church, and works with Ryan and stuff, and I got sober last year, and so I’m just trying to do this new way of life,” she said. “This is amazing how many people they help every every week. Like hundreds, if not thousands. It means a lot because right now my husband is not with us right now. He's gonna be away for a year, and so this is gonna help me a lot, especially around the holidays, and you get all kinds of stuff. They have fresh fruit, canned stuff. It's amazing.”

Some 100 vehicles had lined up along Liberty Street by 9 a.m. Most of them appeared to be parked in between driveways as instructed.  A woman who was parked toward the front of the line couldn’t understand the city’s reaction to the distribution.

“I’m really shocked that they said that,” she said, asking that her name not be used. “I go to the church. I like it here, I don’t see why they would have to move; it seems like it’s organized to me.” 

A big part of the organization system can be attributed to the volunteers that show up to stack the food in a long row, bag the loose items and prepare everything so that people can simply drive up and get their allotment and go so as not to create a disruption in the flow. 

Volunteer Sandy Wojtasczyk walked the line to get names and mark how many adults and children were in each. 

“And reminding them not to be parked in driveways or crosswalks,” she said. “And I help to give food out.”

Some vehicles had two families, and some participants will also distribute the food to the Little Free Pantry at First Presbyterian Church and to other organizations and neighbors in need, she said. 

Fellow volunteer Jennifer Reed has been helping out for about a year and a half and has been attending the church for 18 years. 

“I’ve observed all types of things: I've seen people crying, I've seen people overjoyed that they're getting assistance, with help getting food. I mean, it's just been a blessing to me as well as the people that come through the line,” Reed said. “I’ve never seen an issue with traffic, I mean, I've done everything from walking the streets, taking people's names that are going through the line, just observing, that nobody has been blocking driveways or blocking streets.

“And with the rise of food costs, this has been a blessing to the community. I mean, I have friends myself that come from Le Roy, and Wyoming. I've had people come as far as Attica. So people are coming from all over the region to get help with food.”

Former City Councilwoman Rosemary Christian, who represented that neighborhood’s Ward Six, reached out to The Batavian to voice her dismay about the city’s request to move the distribution. She has suffered some health issues and could not attend a council meeting in person, but wanted to urge others to consider doing so.

“The city streets belong to everyone who pays taxes, and those people all pay taxes too. The problem is, they can’t give up two and a half hours to help give people food?” Christian said. “It’s ridiculous, and they ought to be ashamed of themselves. I hope people will be there to protest this council so people will be able to get food.”

The Batavian has contacted Tabelski for an update on the city’s request and will add that to this article once received. 

The food for the distribution is funded by “the City Church family, USDA, Foodlink and other financial partners,” Macdonald said.

Photos by Howard Owens

st anthony's food distribution dec. 2023
st anthony's food distribution dec. 2023
City Church pastors Ryan Macdonald and Marty Macdonald during a morning prayer at the start of Wednesday's food distribution at St. Anthony's on Liberty Street, Batavia.
Photo by Howard Owens.
st anthony's food distribution dec. 2023
Ryan Macdonald and Mattie Cooper.
Photo by Howard Owens
st anthony's food distribution dec. 2023
st anthony's food distribution dec. 2023
st anthony's food distribution dec. 2023
st anthony's food distribution dec. 2023
st anthony's food distribution dec. 2023

Authentically Local