News & Events


Friends of the Poor Provide Assistance

by Meghan Loftus, CEO Friends of the Poor

Dear IHM Sisters,

Although I am out on maternity leave, I wanted to take a quick moment to update you on the new day-to-day activities at Friends of the Poor in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although Governor Wolf issued and expanded a “stay at home order” for everyone except essential businesses, we have been informed that as a partner agency of the Weinberg Food Bank and its charitable food network, we are essential because we are an agency providing life sustaining services. It is in this capacity that we have and will continue to respond with laser focus on relieving the suffering of hungry families. At this time, all other Friends of the Poor programs and outreach assistance are on hold, to protect the health and safety of our volunteers and those we serve. 

Thanks to the generosity of new volunteers from the community, we have been able to keep two of our ten food pantries open with limited schedules. NeighborWorks has sent staff from their agency to volunteer with us weekly in the Jackson Terrace pantry. This has been crucial because we lost ten workers who were furloughed by county and federal programs that had previously assigned them to Friends of the Poor. Other volunteers include
recently unemployed persons and those with reduced work schedules. We are open now at Jackson Terrace and Valley View Terrace Monday through Friday for a half day, yet we are still serving about 90-100 families daily. Sister Ann Walsh has been at Jackson, and Sister Betty Bullen is coordinating our pantry at Valley View. Sister Betty and our volunteers at Valley View have also taken on the task of distributing hearty school meals to children in that development. Every day, food service delivers 60-70 school meals to be given out. Both pantries provide gloves and masks for volunteers, and all are following the guidelines to mitigate the spread of the virus. Food insecurity was already a prevalent issue in our area, and this current situation only increases that need.

In response to increased current need, Linda Robeson, our board Vice Chair and the director of our Family to Family Program, and Sister Ann come together to organize weekly food distributions to the community at large. Partnering with the Weinberg Food Bank, who suggested drive-through distributions as a best practice, we have held one distribution per week since March 18th. Our first distribution was at our warehouse on East Elm Street, the second was at the Wright Center in Jermyn, and the third was held in partnership with our IHM sponsored ministry, St. Joseph’s Center, at the Blakely Street location. We then held our Family to Family Easter Food & Basket Giveaway as planned on April 7th. With the help of the Scranton Police Department, we were still able to provide an Easter meal and basket to each family in need at Scranton High School. We served over 2,000 families for Easter, where we would normally serve 1,200. We then resumed weekly distributions, holding one at Mc-Dade Park, one at Mid Valley Secondary School, and one in the Abingtons. Linda has played such a crucial role at Friends during this time, and her work in organizing the distributions and soliciting donations to cover them has been remarkable. We rely on the generosity of our community and we have seen them respond in remarkable ways during this pandemic. As it continues, we count on support from individuals, businesses, and foundations so that we can hold a weekly or bi-weekly distribution for our friends and neighbors who are struggling, out of work, and in desperate need. These drive-through food distributions have served 800 to 1,200+ families at each location.

Additionally, Friends of the Poor has collaborated with the University of Scranton and Scranton Tomorrow in a program that solicited donations for the purchase of gift cards to local restaurants. In just a few days, over $25,000 was raised to purchase $15 restaurant gift cards. Friends of the Poor distributed these cards to families in need, thus addressing local food insecurity and assisting local business owners who have been negatively impacted by this pandemic.

In short, our response to COVID-19 at Friends of the Poor means that we are busier than ever. Calling to mind and to heart our foundress, Sister Adrian Barrett, IHM, we, and our countless volunteers, face each day ready to alleviate the burdens of poverty in our community. In that spirit, we ask that you spread the word that Friends of the Poor is open and serving those most in need. We want to get this message to those who may be looking for
resources and to those wishing to donate their time and treasure. Please continue to keep our staff and volunteers in your prayers, particularly all who will be involved in our upcoming Easter Food & Basket Giveaway.

I am grateful that Sister Ann will continue to stand in for me while I am out on leave. 

Please know how deeply I appreciate your concern for the great and holy mission of Friends of the Poor. I remain forever grateful for your prayers.