The Millbrook Independent News
by Tonia Shoumatoff
September 3, 2014
Feeding up to 450 people a month at their food pantry, providing like-new clothing and housewares at their thrift store and sending children home from school with enough food for the weekend through their backpack program are among the generous deeds of the Center of Compassion in Dover.
Originally called “Loaves and Fishes,” The Center of Compassion’s programs were originally started and run by Sister Maureen, as a ministry of the Sisters of the Divine Compassion, in White Plains. The sisters had a house in Dover Plains for twelve years for their ministry.
The Center of Compassion has recently relocated to 52 Mill St. in Dover Plains, New York, just over the train tracks on the right. The main focus of the Center is to be of service and to be available to those in poverty, especially women and children, the elderly and the infirmed.
We spoke to Julie Gregory, the President of the Board of Directors, and she told us that a donation of $2 can purchase over 12 lbs. of food for the pantry through the Regional Food Bank.
She said that the thrift store eagerly accepts donations of almost-new clothing and housewares. She said that because the food pantry respects the privacy of the individuals it is only open by appointment by calling 845-877-9076. The thrift store is open from 11-4 p.m. daily and 11-2 on Saturdays. She also mentioned that the Backpack program served 66 children a week last year with the demand continuing to grow. She is expecting the number of children to be much larger this year. All the programs at the Center are run by volunteers, so if you are looking to volunteer please give them a call.
The Center for Compassion is having a fund-raising dinner dance on September 12 at the Inn at Dover Furnace. Tickets are $50.00. Checks can be made out to The Center of Compassion and sent to P.O. Box 665, Dover Plains, NY 12522.
“Many businesses from our local community have been big supporters of the Center’s work including Westchester Modular, Cricket Valley Energy and Olivet Management,” explained Ms. Gregory.
1139 Backpacks ready for stuffing.
We were able to speak with Sister Maureen who is now in retirement in Cold Spring. She described how the sisters of her order in White Plains had prayed to be of assistance to the poor upstate and how she felt they were divinely guided to serve in Dover Plains. She described how they were able to serve sit-down lunches for up to 50 people a week in the parish hall of St. Charles church.
“We worked collaboratively with Father Barry and the community. We also worked with all the surrounding churches, so it was an ecumenical effort. We had the welcome tables for twelve years. Noone was ever excluded, or treated unkindly. It was as much as a joy for me as it was for them. Up to sixty volunteers arranged the flowers on the tables and brought and served homemade soups and and desserts. Foodtown and Hanneford gave bread and desserts. Westchester Modular provided meat, cheese and eggs. The disabled vets from the Crystal House came. We delivered meals for up to 45 people who were housebound. We all worked together and it was a wonderful feeling.
On Thanksgiving people would get food baskets with turkeys and people would bring in cooked meals and drive the meals to those physically in need, people who lived by themselves or could not cook.”
She described how the Sisters of Divine Compassion were founded by a priest and a sister. Monseignor Thomas Preston, in 1886 and Mother Mary Veronica in New York City: “They were both converts. They started by teaching immigrant women who were coming into the country to learn a trade. We then became educators. We got to White Plains because the foundress wanted to children and women to have a nice property.”
Sister Maureen said she was so happy the Center has moved to a bigger space in the former site of the bank on the other side of the railroad tracks. She said this ministry has been the most meaningful of her career. She said she believes it is important to empower people to become self-sufficient and for the community to be able take over and run the program on their own. It was clear that this program was her baby.