Updated 09/21/2012 07:37 PM
Local non-profit community center seeks to expand
The need for services to low income families in Pittsfield is growing. Our Berkshire County reporter Madeleine Rivera finds out what one community organization is doing to help meet that need.
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. -- "Thank you for all the blessings that have been bestowed on us on this meal," said a visitor of the Christian Center.
That's how every noon meal starts at the center: With a prayer. But the non-profit is looking for its own share of blessings.
"It's really background planning right now. Our goal would be to probably start building in about three years," said Ellen Merritt, Executive Director of the center.
She wants to renovate and expand the building to offer more services.
"It's really not an adequate facility to provide for the high level of need of this community," she said.
And the need has grown. Merritt said that in 2010, the number of people that served was 3,105 people. In the first three months of this year, the center has served 2,427 people.
The numbers in Pittsfield mirror higher rates of poverty in surrounding upstate New York cities. The U.S. Census recently released some sad stats.
According to the Gannett's Albany Bureau of U.S. Census Data, in 2011, more than 54 percent of the youth in Rochester lived in poverty. In Schenectady, the percentage of people living in poverty rose 34 percent from 2010 to 2011. Syracuse ranked 10th of large cities in the nation for childhood poverty.
"You can't blame people for the situations they're in. Especially with the state of the economy and all that, people are going to be falling in these positions, they're stuck without somewhere to go or they just need extra food or a helping hand," said Bobby Quinn, a volunteer at the Christian Center.
The Christian Center owns four lots. It currently owns two buildings beside the center and an adjacent vacant lot. Merritt says that if this plan becomes a reality, these buildings will most likely come down and a new facility will be built.
"Expanding space, meaning room for everybody to come to eat, meaning give us a shelter and things like that," said Aloyisus Boikin, a Christian Center visitor.
The Center's Board of Directors will set up a meeting next month so the public can weigh in with their opinions of the expansion.