Last Saturday in the South Wedge, several dozen people were enjoying pizza and conversation in Nathaniel Rochester Square Park.
Over the summer, I’d seen the gathering but never joined. Hungry, that day I met Vera McCollough, many other volunteers and community members who had come for Pizza in the Park. The vibe was welcoming and upbeat.
Vera explained that the last Pizza in the Park for this season was Saturday September 25th at 1pm. So it’s not too late for one last afternoon of cheese, pepperoni and hope. And it all starts again next June.
From Vera McCollough:
Pizza-in-the-Park is an outreach ministry pioneered by Sandy Whalen in 2008. She saw the need for ministry to people who were poor, transient, and uprooted from their communities and families. In 2010, the leadership of the ministry was transferred to Vera McCollough who insured the ongoing service and ministry of Pizza-in-the Park, which serves hundreds of people every year.
Pizza-in-the Park is a community-based outreach ministry, primarily serving outdoors at Nathaniel Park, located on the corner of South Ave and Alexander Street. Beginning each year on the first Saturday of June until the last Saturday in September, dedicated volunteers from different churches provide free meals, primarily pizza, to individuals and entire families who are in need. Not only food, butclothing, toiletries, resources for housing needs are made available, along with the names and locations of caring churches in the neighborhood. Additionally, the ministry offers information about other community-based programs which will enable underserved and disadvantaged people to rise above economic poverty and be freed from the cycle of dependency.
The ministry of Pizza-in-the Park is multifaceted, serving food for the body and food for the soul and spirit. Along with the food, there is always a message of hope through special presentations of dance, music, dramas, or praise and worship groups, and then there is the sharing of a relevant biblical message. Over time, many lives have been transformed from hopelessness and despair, to hope and faith. We have also seen Jesus bring dramatic healing and strength to people through prayer. A gentleman in a wheelchair suffering with MS was prayed for and was able to stand and take his first couple of steps in years. Many people have returned and told us how thankful they were for our prayers because of the difference it made in their lives.At present, there are fourteen faithful volunteers that serve on a weekly basis. The ministry of Pizza-in-the Park seeks to develop corporate partners who will help this ministry meet the growing need among the poor in high-need communities and neighborhoods of Rochester. We invite you and your organization to join with us to fight hunger, hopelessness, and despair in the city of Rochester.
Pizza in the Park is a part of Caleb Ministries, a branch of EHCI, (Eleventh Hour Christian Initiatives), a not for profit 501(C)3 organization.
TODAY 9/24/16 was the last Pizza-in-the-Park for the season. A big crowd attended, including giving a bittersweet farewell to Vera who is moving to Florida. She’ll continue the work of the ministry without worrying about blizzards.
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