Greater partnership seen as way to safeguard center’s mission and commitment to Binghamton
The April 10 pandemic-related closure of Caritas Community Center and Café, which meant layoffs for all staff, will remain in effect through the summer to allow the nonprofit’s board to restructure Caritas in hopes of putting it on a more sustainable path in delivering on its mission to serve Binghamton.
Caritas’ kitchen will be converted from a café to a community resource for food entrepreneurs, and board chair Megan Morris said Caritas will focus on partnering with other organizations’ existing programs.
“We want to build new neighborhood partnerships that deliver more benefit to members of the Binghamton community,” Morris said. “Caritas has other programs that we look forward to restarting and new ones as soon as we’re able.”
Morris said she was proud of the way Caritas served food in the early days of the pandemic, and she credits outgoing development director Kristin McMillin and Caritas Chef Spencer McMillin for helming two efforts in response to COVID-19. Caritas’ Restaurant Workers Unity Project fed restaurant industry workers and people from the Binghamton neighborhood for free. Feed the Front Lines Memphis, which is ongoing, feeds hospital workers and other essential employees using meals paid for by donations and made by local restaurants and chefs.
“Kristin and Spencer have worked so hard on those efforts and to bring their vision to the café at Caritas,” Morris said. “We know they will continue to do great things in Memphis.”
Morris said she was also grateful for the hard work that outgoing programs director Brad Watkins and the rest of the staff put into what Caritas offered.
“We don’t know exactly what the future holds, but we’re going to take the time to find the right mix of offerings and the right partnerships to sustainably carry our mission forward,” she said. “Caritas will be back with a renewed focus on serving the community of Binghamton soon.”
Statement from Megan Morris:
In the wake of the global pandemic, our organization has had to face some difficult realities. We are deeply committed to the vital mission of love and service to our community of Binghamton as created by our founder Onie Johns. With that in mind, we have decided to re-imagine the use of our kitchen, converting it from a café to a community resource for local food entrepreneurs. Caritas will remain closed for the summer while we work to strengthen partnerships with other local organizations, envision how all of our programs will continue, and ensure a sustainable future for our beloved organization.
We would like to sincerely thank Kristin McMillin for her leadership in shepherding the café through several challenges so capably, and, with the help of Chef Spencer McMillin, in leveraging additional resources to offer the truly above-and-beyond Restaurant Workers Unity Project and Feeding the Front Lines efforts.
We are grateful to the leadership of Brad Watkins, who offered resources valuable to residents and laid the groundwork for programming to come, and to the entire staff, who worked tirelessly to produce wonderful food and fellowship for our community.
We are grateful beyond measure for the countless people who made Caritas’ mission of love and service theirs by offering their monetary support or volunteer support. To all of our customers over the years, we love you and are so happy to have played a part in your fellowship and conversations over meals at Caritas. We are grateful that you decided to spend your time and money in support of a mission that brought many people together and helped us provide meals to many hungry people who had no money to eat.
We are grateful for the hard work and countless contributions of our neighbors in Binghamton, who worked to make Caritas what it has become and continue to inspire our collective work. We are excited about what the future hold for Caritas and are dedicated to returning with a renewed commitment to serving our community of Binghamton in the fall.
~Megan Morris, Caritas board chair
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