St. Mary’s Church Outreach Program in Jeopardy of Closing

NEWBURGH – For about 10 years now, St. Mary’s Outreach has been serving the Newburgh Community with food, clothing, housewares and furniture, with 10-15 tons given away each month to those in need. It is hard work, and the Outreach has also been an emergency site, open through power outages, tornados and blizzards when other food pantries have been closed. The over 1300 registered families that are served are primarily located in the Newburgh area, but there are clients who travel from Port Jervis, the Bronx, Connecticut, Ulster and Dutchess Counties, and beyond, to attend St. Mary’s monthly “Giving Day.” The Outreach was featured on the PBS News Hour Weekend on September 6, which aired nationally, so it is a large, serious ministry. Usually over 50 food items are offered each month, plus fresh produce, clothing and housewares. Furniture is directly connected from those who have it to donate, to those who need it.

St. Mary’s worked with the Orange County Department of Health to develop lots of special precautions that would allow visitors and volunteers to continue to serve the community through the pandemic. Masks, spacing, temperature at the door, and over a dozen precautions were in place and the ministry continued stay open to give away a lot of food since the pandemic began. But a real set back for the program was coming in a most unlikely way. St. Mary’s Outreach uses the Headstart location on Gidney Avenue one day a month for Giving Day. The State of New York put guidelines in place having to do with school reopening, and to meet these guidelines, Headstart was unable to let St. Mary’s Outreach use the gym.

Without a site, the ministry reached out to other churches. The First Baptist Church on the corner of West and South Streets was kind enough to allow the Outreach to use their site. Food and trucks were ordered, the Marines and Air National Guard had volunteered to help unload, one day special event insurance was in the works, and everything was set for a Friday, September 18 Giving Day. But another surprise was awaiting the ministry when the Archdiocese of New York called and said that when the ministry was “offsite” it would not qualify as a parish ministry because of insurance liability and St. Mary’s Outreach couldn’t use the tax exempt number of the church. St. Mary’s Outreach has been a ministry of the Church of St. Patrick and St. Mary since the two churches merged on July 1, 2015. So the ministry was without a tax number if offsite. And there has to be a tax exempt number for food to be purchased from the Food Bank. So the ministry would be without access to food. Since the September 18th Giving Day hadn’t happened yet, the Outreach still was not officially offsite.

The Director of St. Mary’s Outreach, Marietta Allen had to cancel Giving Day for September and sent a special proposal back to the Archdiocese of New York. The request was to allow St. Mary’s Outreach to use the actual St. Mary’s Church building, which is at 180 South Street, a few yards away from the Headstart location. The proposal noted that with this arrangement the ministry could continue to be a parish ministry of the Church of St. Patrick and St. Mary, keep the tax number as it was in the past, and still be able to serve the community with a Giving Day on the 3rd Friday of each month. The St. Mary’s Church building had very little use since the St. Patrick/St. Mary merger in 2015, so it would be a win-win, serving the community and giving the building some use. Fr. Hernandez is presently the Pastor of the Church of St. Patrick and St. Mary. Everyone hopes that he will support the request, and along with the Archdiocese of New York, reinstate everything and allow the use of the St. Mary’s Church building for one day a month for service to the Newburgh Community.

“Right now we are awaiting an answer from the Archdiocese,” stated Marietta. “Hopefully we will be able to continue to help those in need in Newburgh. Coats for the fall, toys for Christmas, there is a lot to do, but we need a location and the tax exempt number so we can work with the Food Bank. We love the people of Newburgh and hope the Archdiocese and Fr. Hernandez give us a big YES to continue our work. We will keep the Hudson Valley Press posted for future developments. Please keep us in your prayers!”