By Katherine Long
Those in need on Syracuse’s South Side now have a new place to find welcome and support.
The Road to Emmaus Ministry of Syracuse, Inc., cut the ribbon on its St. Marianne Cope Center for Outreach May 6, officially opening the new drop-in facility and beginning a new era for the ministry.
Emmaus began some nine years ago, Sheila Austin, director of the ministry, explained days before the facility’s opening. Father John Manno, newly assigned to St. James Church, “came with a vision of creating an outreach program for the South Side of the city” and bringing the presence of Christ to those in need, she said.
The ministry began by bringing sandwiches to the men’s shelter operated by Catholic Charities. Over the years, Emmaus grew to include among its many ministries hot meal service at various sites; foot washing and haircuts at the shelter; coat, shoe, and sock distribution; a summer cookout open to the community; bags of groceries for those in need; and the Hope Mobile van, bringing food, clothing, and toiletries to the homeless.
All of this work will continue, now operating out of the new center. The difference, Austin said, will be that Emmaus can now literally welcome the stranger into a beautiful, homey environment.
The center, located at 4335 South Salina St., includes a gathering space for hospitality, a coffee bar, a commercial kitchen, a food pantry, and shelves filled with donated clothing and shoes. Austin is most excited about a new service the ministry is able to provide in the new space: a shower for those who are homeless and in need of a place “where they can come get cleaned up in safety and with dignity,” she said. A new washer and dryer will also allow the ministry to clean people’s clothes while they shower. The new center was made possible through the generosity of the community and of the ministry’s collaborating parishes, Austin said.
“We never anticipated this to happen, just little by little it started growing,” Father Manno said after the ribbon cutting. “The hope is that we can do a lot from here to reach out to the neighborhood … form relationships and bring the presence of Christ and the Church to this area.”
Kirk Butler, who was helped by the ministry and now volunteers with it, said the new center would “bring a little light” to the neighborhood and show those who are down and out that people care.
With the doors of the facility open, “a whole new world is opening up and I’m so excited,” Austin said.
For more information about Road to Emmaus Ministry, visit emmausministry.org.