BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and all the restrictions that come with it, the important work of feeding the needy continues at St. Luke’s Mission of Mercy on Buffalo’s East Side.
Among other services, the mission provides meals for those who need a helping hand.
These days, one of the mission’s long-time partners, Rich Products, has stepped up again by providing meal drop-offs, keeping the company’s food service workers busy.
“It’s really important for all of us to step up and serve those that need us the most,” said Howard Rich, vice president of corporate relations for Rich Products.
Rich Products has had a 24-year partnership with St. Luke’s Mission of Mercy that began when Howard Rich first met with Amy Betros in a dark basement at the Walden Avenue location when the mission’s work was just getting started.
Betros, co-founder and director of the mission, had been working tirelessly to serve the downtrodden and needy in the community.
“We found that it was a great relationship, great partnership. And us being in the food business, and Amy being in the business of distributing food, it was a natural for us to develop that relationship,” Rich said.
“It’s really been a privilege for us and great for our associates too.”
The COVID crisis has given Rich Products another opportunity to partner with St. Luke’s to serve the needs of the community.
“Once a week we provide between 300 and 800 meals to St. Luke’s every weekend so that Amy’s staff can get a break and we keep our staff working throughout the whole week,” Rich said. “It’s really a win-win organization, and it was Amy just sort of thinking creatively on how do we take care of everybody during this time of crisis.”
Last weekend, St. Luke’s distributed 1,350 meals.
Betros says while her staff gets a break from cooking four meals on Saturday, thanks to Rich Products, they are still preparing two meals and packaging the food that the company delivers.
Since the crisis, Rich Products has provided over 1,200 meals to the mission.
Because of COVID restrictions, and in the interest of safety, it would have been impossible for the mission’s volunteer staff to prepare all those meals.
“By Rich’s giving us the meals, that helps us tremendously,” said Betros. “And I love a win-win.”
Howard Rich explained that the company has chefs on staff that prepare the individual meals.
“It’s really nice when you can provide a nutritious meal that’s well balanced and gives some different flavors,” he said.
Betros says the meals are individually bagged and ready for pickup.
“They come in and tell us how many people. We hand them the bags and they go home,” she said. “We try to do it as safely as we can.”
Betros meets weekly with a chef from Rich Products to come up with the menu. The company then creates the meal and delivers it packaged for distribution.
Why is the partnership with St. Luke’s so important and meaningful?
Rich tells News 4 that the company strongly believes that the success of the community requires a collective and collaborative effort.
“I think in our community if we all don’t win, none of us win,” he said. “And so, for Rich Products it’s important for us to give back to the community and help out.”
Betros also thanked the mission’s numerous other partners, which include Steve’s Pig and Ox Roast, Subway, Jim’s Steak Out and La Nova.
“We really are concerned about those that are living on the edge. The work that Amy has done through the years is critical, but now it’s even more critical to keep them comfortable and well-fed.”
Betros tells News 4 that the mission has had a “fabulous relationship” with Rich Products, especially during the holiday season when the needs of the community grow.
“We could not do Thanksgiving and Christmas the way we do without them,” she said. “They pay for all the trucks. They get them there. Between Thanksgiving and Christmas, we did 5,200 families. And they’ve always been generous and good.”
These days, despite the challenges of social distancing and workplace safety, the mission distributes lunch and dinner meals together, once a day, usually between 1:00 pm and 3:00 pm.