BUFFALO, N.Y. — Sister Mary Johnice can't help but beam when she talks about the recent renovations to the Response to Love Center, or the reaction she's seen from their clients.
"It's very exciting to see the change, for us to see the change, but when people walk in, see a whole new dining room all the space, beautiful color, a whole new kitchen," she told 2 On Your Side. "It's exciting for them just to come to newness and to see beauty, and see something decorated nicely. Warm. Before, it was a real dingy place, the building's over 100 years old. So coming into this it was like oh my gosh, this was depressing."
The transformation, which includes a renovated dining room and kitchen, food pantry, and more, all began place during the pandemic shut-downs when people weren't allowed inside.
"We served everything outside," Sister Johnice recalled. "Our tents blew away twice, we had to invest in a canopy. We froze. We froze, but we said we'll identify with the people because they're freezing too."
All the while, they were working on a plan to make things safer and more socially distant for when they could welcome people back inside.
"We had to put in all new flooring. We had to get all new tables, all new chairs. Do new painting, a whole new kitchen, all new food pantry rooms," she said. "But thanks to the community, we made it happen."
Sister Johnice says the renovations totalled more than $400,000, which was raised completely through private donors.
"No federal money, no federal money," she said. "It all came through the graciousness of God, a lot of prayer, and the community, and it's their building. It's their mission. It's not mine, but it belongs to all of us, and the generosity is just overwhelming."
The Response to Love Center's Annual Thanksgiving Dinner takes place in-person on Thursday, Nov. 25 at 10 a.m., with a to-go option to guests who prefer to take their food home.
The Center does not need turkeys or volunteers, but they are collecting gift cards and cleaning supplies.
More information is available here or by calling 716-894-7030.