Food, clothing bank holds its first open house

By Rachael Scarborough King, Register Staff
April 7, 2008

WEST HAVEN — Dozens of people wound through the clothes closet, food pantry and diaper bank at the Beacon on the Hill community outreach ministry Sunday during the organization’s first open house.

Beacon on the Hill, which was formerly known as Our Lady of Victory Clothes Closet, is a joint effort by Our Lady of Victory and St. John Vianney Catholic churches to provide food, clothing and other services to needy residents in the area.

In the past year, it has increased its offerings and changed its name, coordinator Valerie Cosenza said.

Beacon on the Hill now provides diapers to about 200 families a month, the number of people using the clothes closet has tripled, and the organization is planning to expand its food bank and educational services.

All of the services are free, Cosenza said, describing Beacon on the Hill as a social justice group.

“We follow the Scripture (and) the Scripture clearly says we are our brother’s keeper, and we believe that,” she said. “Everyone has a responsibility to help the less fortunate.”

The goal of Sunday’s open house was to make people aware of Beacon on the Hill’s services, Cosenza said. The group is not just limited to residents or Catholics, she added.

With the rising costs of gasoline, electricity and heating oil, Beacon on the Hill has seen increased need lately.

“The economy is poor right now and people are feeling it,” Cosenza said. “We have a lot more blue-collar poor here — people sometimes can’t make ends meet.”

The Clothes Closet opened about 20 years ago, and the organization adopted the name Beacon on the Hill last year to reflect its expanded services.

It offers secondhand clothing, food, diapers, a resource and referral center, holiday food baskets, durable medical supplies and socks for the homeless.

Cosenza said she often meets with those who want to work through Beacon on the Hill’s educational services to change their situations.

“My first question is, ‘What happened that you needed a turkey for Thanksgiving?’” she said. “Needing the turkey is the tip of the iceberg. … You find out they need continual support.”

Although Cosenza said the open house was a “one-time thing,” she and others will continue to spread the work about Beacon on the Hill.

The organization has about 105 volunteers. That number increased by at least one Sunday, as a woman visiting the open house told Cosenza she would like to start volunteering right away.

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