Cheese, pepperoni and hope in Nathaniel Square.

Cheese, pepperoni and hope in Nathaniel Square.

Pizza-in-the-Park volunteers, 9/17/16

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 ark-pic-2volunteers 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.


Photo provided by Vera

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-pic-1-improvedbased 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 p1000859transformed 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.


With Nathaniel Rochester at Pepsy Kettavong’s sculpture [Photo: Vera]

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.


Group prayer 9/24/16

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.

Vera 9/24/16


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About The Author

Welcome to Talker of the Town! My name is David Kramer. I have a Ph.D in English and teach at Keuka College. I am a former and still active Fellow at the Nazareth College Center for Public History and a Storyteller in Residence at the SmallMatters Institute. Over the years, I have taught at Monroe Community College, the Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College. I have published numerous Guest Essays, Letters, Book Reviews and Opinion pieces in The New York Times, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the Buffalo News, the Rochester Patriot, the Providence Journal, the Providence Business News, the Brown Alumni Magazine, the New London Day, the Boston Herald, the Messenger Post Newspapers, the Wedge, the Empty Closet, the CITY, Lake Affect Magazine and Brighton Connections. My poetry appears in The Criterion: An International Journal in English and Rundenalia and my academic writing in War, Literature and the Arts and Twentieth Century Literary Criticism. Starting in February 2013, I wrote for three Democratic and Chronicle  blogs, "Make City Schools Better," "Unite Rochester," and the "Editorial Board." When my tenure at the D & C  ended, I wanted to continue conversations first begun there. And start new ones.  So we created this new space, Talker of the Town, where all are invited to join. I don’t like to say these posts are “mine.” Very few of them are the sole product of my sometimes overheated imagination. Instead, I call them partnerships and collaborations. Or as they say in education, “peer group work.” Talker of the Town might better be Talkers of the Town. The blog won’t thrive without your leads, text, pictures, ideas, facebook shares, tweets, comments and criticisms.


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