By Jude Allume SYRACUSE, N.Y. (NCC News) – KeyBank will donate $200,00 to the Syracuse Rescue Mission over the next four years. The funds will help pay for the renovation and expansion of the food services center. The Rescue Mission is the only organization that serves three meals a day for free, serving up to 800 people each day.
The dining area currently seats 75 people. With more people coming for food than there are places to sit, the organization is looking to expand their current facilities to fit everyone.
“It’s definitely needed because it’s SRO around here sometimes,” Rescue Mission resident Rick Dirose said. “Standing room only.”
The dining room expandsion will seat about 250 people, more than triple the current seating size. The expansion of the seating area is just one of the upgrades planned in the renovation according to food services director Paul Dawkins.
“The project is to bring our building right now up to date up into this century,” Said Dawkins. “We’re gonna get all new equipment for cooking and for the teaching of school kids.”
In addition, the renovation plans will also include:
- A welcoming, home like open atmosphere
- Space for workforce training in food services
- Additional serving lines to reduce outdoor waiting for meals
- Increased storage for more food donations
- A family dining room and
- Flexible space to be used as a center for spiritual care and other events
Syracuse’s poverty rate is the 13th worst in the nation with over 30 percent of the city’s population living below the poverty line. The Rescue Mission and organizations like it help people by providing meals any one who is hungry. Some people would be short on options for food without the organization providing meals consistently.
“I don’t have any income right now,” Rescue Mission resident Randy Schryver said. “So I mean you know I have to eat to survive. The local, really big local grocery store (Nojaim) like right around the corner just closed and I think there’s a lot more people coming here now because of that.”
The organization does not turn anybody away, according to Dawkins, as anyone who is hungry can come in, with many people driving from all over the city to take advantage of the free meals.
“Now a days we have people just living paycheck to paycheck and they’ll have to make a decision between feeding their kids or paying rent,” said Dawkins. “So the dynamics of who we serve has changed greatly.”