Saint's Place is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday.
Saint's Place is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday.
Heritage Munyakuri arrived alone in Rochester in March 2007, after having traveled 8,000 miles. It was the first time the 20-year-old Congolese man had seen snow. “Am I going to be able to live in this country?” he wondered. “It was very cold.”
The shock of a snowy Rochester winter was alleviated by the warm welcome he received, especially when he arrived at the Saint’s Place Clothing Closet. “I got a brown jacket, it was very warm, and I loved it so much,” he recalls with a big smile. Today, Heritage is married and the father of four children. He is the pastor of a local church that he founded, and he works for World Relief Western New York, helping newly arriving Ukrainians. Heritage is pictured above with his family.
In 1998, St. Louis Church parishioner Colleen Knauf started Saint’s Place in her garage, serving a few Somali families who had arrived in Rochester with nothing but the clothing on their backs. As Saint’s Place celebrates its 25th anniversary, we marvel that Colleen’s initial effort has resulted in helping more than 31,000 refugees by providing clothing, household goods (including new beds and mattresses), and school supplies.
Today, Saint’s Place operates the largest clothing closet in the Rochester area, located on the campus of St. John of Rochester Church in Fairport. The agency also has a large truck, a new van, a warehouse with more than 7,000 square feet, and more than 120 active volunteers and another 100 for special projects. Saint’s Place is a joint ministry of St. Louis Church in Pittsford and St. John of Rochester Church.
Refugees arrive legally from the four corners of the world through the U.S. State Department working with Catholic Charities Family and Community Services in Rochester and World Relief of Western New York. In 2022, Saint’s Place also assisted 350 Ukrainians displaced from the war and who arrived in Rochester.
Saint’s Place expects to help hundreds more Ukrainians in 2023, along with hundreds of refugees from other countries including Afghanistan, Iraq, Congo, Venezuela, Haiti, Sudan and those displaced by the recent earthquake in Turkey and Syria. The agency is on track to welcome a record number of refugees, approximately 1,200 from July 2022 through June 2023.
Founder Colleen Knauf, who remains active in the ministry, noted: “This year, as we celebrate our 25th anniversary of helping legal refugees acclimate to a new life in Rochester, we continue to answer our Christian call to ‘show hospitality to strangers,’ and we have no doubt that, as Paul wrote to the Hebrews, ‘in the process, we have entertained angels.’ At Saint’s Place, we live out Christ’s challenge: ‘What you do for the least of my brothers and sisters, you do for me.’ We are ever mindful that, in welcoming refugees, we are welcoming Christ and the Holy Family, who were also refugees, fleeing death and going to live in a strange land.”
“Over the years, the growth of Saint’s Place has been expansive,” Saint’s Place Executive Director Isabel Miller said. “We now have in place a sterling Educational Initiative Program; we are giving the refugees higher quality products such as washers and dryers that lessen their burden of costs of doing laundry, along with computers to help acclimate them to our society. All of these good works over the years are due to our volunteers and the Holy Spirit guiding us.”
Saint’s Place continues to help refugees further their education to lift them out of poverty through its Educational Initiative Program. Since the program launched in 2018, Saint’s Place has awarded more than $240,000 in scholarships for college and vocational training, textbooks and school fees, along with laptops and tools for graduates going into the trades.
To celebrate Saint’s Place anniversary, events are scheduled as follows:
Saturday, June 3: Bishop Salvatore Matano of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester will celebrate mass at 4:30 p.m. at St. Louis Church, 64 S. Main St., Pittsford. During the mass, the Bishop will bless the volunteers of Saint’s Place. After the mass, there will be a reception in the St. Louis School gym with refreshments and a large display of photos and other items related to the history of Saint’s Place.
Sunday, June 4: Father Peter Clifford will celebrate mass at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. at St. John of Rochester, 8 Wickford Way, Fairport to mark Saint’s Place’s 25thanniversary. He will bless the Saint’s Place volunteers during the masses, and he will bless the new van after each Mass. Following both masses will be tours of the Saint’s Place Clothing Closet located on the church campus. Ukrainian pastries will be served.
The public is invited to all of these events, which are free.
Since January, Saint’s Place has helped almost 400 newly arriving refugee families from the Congo, Sudan, Iraq and Afghanistan along with many Ukrainian refugees who have fled their war-torn homeland.
We have given out 150 beds and set up 75 homes with beds, bedding, kitchen tables and chairs, dressers, kitchen items, and the list goes on. In just three months, our deliveries have included 300 sets of sheets, 300 sets of towels, over 150 blankets, 200 pillows and 150 comforters. Our new van has been invaluable in helping to accomplish all these deliveries.
A Syrian family of 11 has been welcomed by Queen of Peace Church and are living in the old convent, which we furnished. The family is so grateful and happy to be in a safe, friendly place as they start to acclimate to a new culture, language, and country. They are strangers in a strange land who are finding comfort in their new setting.
The weeks ahead look even busier with several large families arriving from the Congo and Afghanistan. At the present rate, we will probably have a banner year for settling newly arrived refugees, easily topping 1,200 from July 1, 2022 – June 30, 2023.
Many community churches, schools, scouting groups, and business have continued to support our ministry through collections of money and donated goods. Several churches held Lenten collections, 50 beautiful handmade quilts were donated by the Genesee Valley Quilt Club, and the Can Man from Fairport donated auto tools for two newly graduated students from the Auto Mechanic Program at OACES in downtown Rochester. Shoppers have used our Amazon wish list to send needed items for the refugees. One of our frequent donors, using her Kohl’s cash and shopping the sales, provides us with needed items almost daily. We’ve gotten to know the delivery person very well! Area churches, including the following, generously answered our plea for help in securing beds, bedding and other needed items for refugees:
· Church of the Assumption
· Church of Resurrection
· Fairport United Methodist Church
· First Presbyterian Church of Ontario Center
· Lakeville United Church of Christ
· Peace of Christ Parish
· Perinton Presbyterian Church
· St. Catherine’s Church
· St. Joseph’s Church
· St. Lawrence Church
Our current most urgently needed items are:
· Small appliances
· Twin sheets
· Towels (all sizes)
· End tables
· Coffee tables
· Small dressers
Plans are well underway for our 25th Anniversary Celebrations. The June 3rd and 4th weekend Masses at St. Louis and St. John of Rochester will be in thanksgiving for the abundance of blessings the Ministry has received over the last 25 years. Bishop Salvatore Matano will be officiating the 4:30 p.m. Mass at St. Louis on June 3rd. All are welcome!
Every day, volunteers at Saint’s Place sort and organize boxes of donated goods. The donated items range from clothing, household goods and electronics to anything found in grandpa’s basement. Half of the items we receive cannot be used by the refugees. This creates a new challenge for our volunteers, finding a home for these unwanted items. Hours of hard work that we could better use for helping our refugees is spent researching and locating organizations that could use the items and delivering these items to the organization.
Useable items that would have found their way to a landfill find a home at Saint’s Place where they are given to newly arrived refugees or put into our Annual Super Sale. Our Annual Sale is our number #1 recycling venue. Last year our Annual Super Sale, which was held in July, earned just short of $150,000. This money is used to run our Ministry and to purchase beds, bedding, pillows, and other necessities for the newly arriving refugees.
Cellphones, broken eyeglasses, plastic bags, batteries, broken glass, metal, electronics, printer cartridges and other donations are sorted and taken by volunteers to the designated recycling center. Eco Park on 10 Avion Drive in Rochester accepts paint cans, e-liquids, plastic and cardboard. They know our cars… as we make weekly trips there! One of our many goals is to recycle as much as possible.
As Christians we are called to be good stewards of the earth; recycling is an easy way to be a good steward. We ask you to please be good stewards of the earth and do your own recycling. Please consider intentional giving as the key when donating to Saint’s Place
In addition to the Annual Super Sale, we need to find “good homes” for off season clothing and other items that we cannot store or use for the sale. Our storage space is limited, so finding organizations to take good, clean, clothing is crucial to running a smooth operation. The following is a list of some of those organizations you might like to use if your donations do not meet our requirements.
ABVI Goodwill picks up most of the items we cannot use for the refugees or our Annual Super Sale. We provide them with many pounds of clothing each week that we cannot use. They in return give us gift cards to use in their stores to purchase items we need for the refugees.
Habitat for Humanity takes hanging ceiling fixtures, large furniture pieces and those household items that we cannot use.
Shriners - Webster (585) 671-7701 medical equipment (walkers, wheelchairs and crutches)
Sweet Charity Fairport (585) 364-0317 Secondhand furniture if we are unable to accept your donation.
Thank you for your generous donations and understanding.
We are so grateful for everyone in our community who sent items from our Amazon wish list, purchased items from the Angel Trees at St. Louis Church, held collections, made handmade knit items and quilts, or donated money so we could purchase laundry detergent, lotion, candy, wish list items and more. Thank you, Mary Therese Friel of MTF LLC, for the 50 stockings!
We had the pleasure of choosing hundreds of toys for our Angel Tree families and clothing closet clients thanks to the generosity and kindness of Deb Milne and The Kade Project. Deb started The Kade project with her husband Ed, a former Marine, after the tragic death of their son Kade, who also served his country as a Marine. One of the ways Deb and Ed give back in Kade’s memory is by collecting toys for Toys for Tots. Thank you to Mary Therese Friel for connecting us and helping us choose amazing toys for our Angel Tree families! Pictured at right are Mary Therese Friel and Deb Kade.
Below are some of our donors. We apologize to anyone we inadvertently omitted. Many of you quietly left your donation, and we didn’t get a chance to thank you.
Knights of Columbus, Trinity Council #4618
Knights of Columbus, Saint John of Rochester
Knights of Columbus, Bishop McQuaid Council #7085
Penfield National Honor Society
Church of the Assumption Money for Beds for Ukrainian refugees
Redeemer Lutheran Church and Saint John’s Lutheran Church
Winslow Elementary School (Rush Henrietta)
Bomba Socks (3,000 pairs!!!)
Toys for Tots
Saint Louis School coat drive
Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Fairport
Saint Louis Church Youth Group
Jensen Hughes Company
So many talented knitters and crocheters
Amazon Wish List shoppers
Angel Tree Shoppers
Caldwell Manufacturing Co.
Queen of Peace knitted mittens
Pittsford Women’s Club knitted items
Mary Theresa Friel Modeling Agency
Saint's Place has welcomed more than 350 Ukrainians to Rochester since July 1. It's going to be a tough Christmas for these people who are far from loved ones, including husbands fighting in the war in Ukraine. Click here to read the article on the Catholic Courier website.
Are you helping the Ukrainians? What are their needs? How many are in Rochester? Are they staying here or returning home? Are more Ukrainians coming?
What can we do to help?
These are very difficult questions to answer, due to many uncertainties. In fact, we don’t have the answer to most of the inquiries. Currently, Catholic Charities Family and Community Services tells us there are more than 300 Ukrainians in Rochester, and they are expecting 500 more in the next year. Most of the Ukrainians are living with family or friends. They have arrived in the United States under a sponsorship program, not under refugee status.
What does that mean?
Uniting for Ukraine, started by the Biden administration, provides a pathway for Ukrainian citizens and their immediate family members residing in Ukraine to come to the United States and stay temporarily in a two-year period of parole. Ukrainians participating in Uniting for Ukraine must have a supporter in the United States who agrees to provide them with financial support for the duration of their stay. Under this sponsorship program, they have a long wait to get a Social Security card, any public assistance, a job, etc. A refugee that arrives is immediately eligible for a Social Security card and public assistance.
Processing the Ukrainians and getting their Social Security card takes months. So, they must stay with their sponsors until they can afford an apartment, get a job, etc. Most of the Ukrainians arrived with only one suitcase because of the cost of bringing luggage. They must pay their own airfare, so there is little money to bring possessions.
At our Clothing Closet, we are helping 30 or more Ukrainians each week with clothing for all seasons. Recently, we started setting up apartments. Saint’s Place has already given out 45 new beds with pillows and bedding in the month of August and we set up 15 homes. Our warehouse and clothing closet are well stocked at this time, but we have many real concerns about the upcoming months. Our biggest concern is having enough beds for all the Ukrainians that are here and those that are still to come. Grant writing has become a full-time endeavor, and our Patron Saint’s campaign is scheduled for early October.
And that is where you can help!
In a few weeks, we will have information about our Patron Saint’s Campaign, how you can donate, and how your donation will be used. Please consider becoming a Patron Saint and support people who were forced to leave their country because of war. It is so hard to imagine that in 2022, war can so cruelly displace people, separate them from their loved ones and the country they love. We can make a difference for them, let them know we care, and they are welcomed here in Rochester. Please keep them and their country in your prayers.
Saint’s Place staff and volunteers don’t usually get to see homes once they are ready for a refugee family to arrive. We acquire and deliver all the beds, linens, household goods, cleaning supplies, toiletries, art etc. and deliver it to the homes. We put the cribs and beds together and put the furniture in the rooms. At that point the case workers and caring circles step in and make the beds and set up the kitchen and bathrooms. However, one recent morning in January, Saint’s Place received an urgent request to help get a home put together for a large family arriving that evening.
The Saint’s Place truck was already out delivering beds and furniture for a new family of five, so Michele, Stacey and Andrea from Saint’s Place, along with ladies and missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (thank you, Lisa, Stacey B. and Meredith) spent the morning making beds, hanging curtains, dusting, vacuuming and mopping alongside members of First Presbyterian Church of Pittsford. By the time they were finished, the house looked beautiful and was ready for the family of nine who arrived that night. No doubt the family was happy to have such a lovely and warm home awaiting them.
A reporter from Channel 10 (WHEC) interviewed Associate Director Michele Quinn and saw first-hand how Saint's Place assists refugees.
Click here to watch the report.
Rochester news reporters have been visiting Saint's Place to tell the community of our efforts to assist Afghan refugees coming to Rochester.
Most recently, a reporter from Channel 10 (WHEC) visited the Clothing Closet and interviewed an Afghan who worked as an interpreter at the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan. Click here to read the story. Click on the media organization's name to view other coverage.
Saint's Place has been working closely with Rochester International Academy for many years. Located on Edgerton Park in the city of Rochester, RIA is designed to facilitate the cultural and academic transition of newly arrived English Language Learners through rigorous language instruction and interdisciplinary learning in collaboration with families and community. Their current enrollment includes 318 refugee students.
Saint's Place has two volunteers who work with the RIA families and their social workers to identify ways we can help these families. Families from RIA frequently visit our Clothing Closet for winter clothing and school supplies and for several years, Saint's Place has provided school uniforms for the students.
This year, we donated khaki pants and the shirts you see in the photo above. In December of 2019, we are giving another 100 RIA hoodies for the older students.
Rochester International Academy is a wonderful, welcoming place for students who are learning a new language and adapting to a new culture and environment. We are privileged to work with them.
Want to learn more about RIA and their programs? Click the link below to go tho their website.
Joyous reunion happens at Saint’s Place tutoring center
Two Afghani women recently stopped by the Saint’s Place tutoring program at Guardian Angels Church in Henrietta.
Both of them had been tutored by Saint’s Place volunteers when they were children, and now in their 20s, they came bringing a new student with them — the husband of one of the women. He had just arrived from Afghanistan to begin a new life in Rochester.
“They went on and on about how wonderful (Saint’s Place Founder Colleen Knauf) and the program were, and how much it helped them,” says tutoring manager Geri Dolan. The Afghani family wanted the new arrival to have the same tutoring experience that they had had.
“Their enthusiasm and gratefulness made our day,” Geri says.
A week later, the family returned to the tutoring program, and this time, they were reunited with long-time volunteer Mary Ellen Capineri. Mary Ellen had tutored another daughter in the family for seven years, from the time she was in the fifth grade until she graduated from high school. That young woman went on to attend Monroe Community College, get married and relocated to Australia. “I remember the family fondly,” says Mary Ellen, especially one of the daughters who started the tutoring program as a five-year-old.
“It was a joyous reunion with lots of hugs and catching up and exchanging of phone numbers,” Geri says. “It is always a gift to be able to see your former students and find out where their lives have taken them.”
The tutoring program is an important aspect of Saint’s Place ministry. Refugees need to learn English so they can assimilate, get an education, and get jobs. The program has been in existence for 20 years. Tutoring takes place from 4:45 p.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays at Guardian Angels Church in Henrietta and Thursdays at the Greek Orthodox Church of the Holy Spirit in Rochester.
If you are wondering about whether you are qualified to be a tutor, Geri says tutors come from a variety of backgrounds and ages and include high school and college students. Prospective tutors fill out paperwork and must take CASE (Creating a Safe Environment) online training as required by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester.
To learn more about volunteering, call Saint’s Place at (585) 358-6860 or fill out an online form here: https://saintsplace.org/contact-us
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