Heart Love and Soul, Part I: How a city food bank and soup kitchen was born

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When listening to some of the founders of Heart, Love and Soul, it’s clear that much of the credit for its origins sprang from faith.

Joe Mombrea remembers that many prayer groups grew from the Grand Island group, including one at Sacred Heart Church at South Avenue and 11th Street in Niagara Falls, which he began attending. It was there that the idea for Heart, Love and Soul food bank and soup kitchen was born.

Circa 1976: Some of the early volunteers who helped found the food pantry that grew into Heart, Love and Soul. Standing from left: Shawn D’Luhy, Peggy Halliday and Joe Sparacio. Seated from left: Ann Baker, Judy Stanton, Joe Mombrea and Mike Calvello.

The Falls group grew to 400 strong. But, in 1976, some of those members were impacted by the national recession and had lost jobs and were struggling financially.

With the help of many others from the prayer group, including his brother Michael Mombrea and his good friend Norm Paolini, the collection of food began at the church.

Pretty soon, so many were donating food that the volunteers needed to move their growing supply out of Sacred Heart. They were given space in a former grocery store at 15th and Pierce Avenue, by the generosity of owners John and Margaret Maroon, who donated the space until the group could purchase the building. An anonymous gift allowed volunteers to buy the store for $18,000.

Author: Michele DeLuca
Source: Niagara Gazette

"It’s an amazing thing when you think about it, how God put everything in place," Mombrea recalled. "It was so easy, we put very little effort into it."

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