By Dick Case, Post-Standard columnist on December 06, 2012 at 6:00 AM, updated December 06, 2012 at 6:01 AM
“I can’t think of anyone going without Christmas dinner,” Dominick Battaglia’s saying. “I have to help out the best I can.”
Dominick owns Dominick’s Market, at Gertrude and Lodi Street on the city’s Hawley-Green neighborhood. The market has a reputation of being a good neighbor.
“I’m ecstatically happy about doing this,” Dominick told me Wednesday. His mission is to donate about six pallets of groceries, worth between $5,000 and $7,000, to help out the struggling food pantry run by the Franciscan Church of the Assumption, on North Salina Street.
The pantry put out a HELP! sign this week, saying it might have to close after the holidays because it had run out of food. The agency is open five days a week and also provides free sandwich lunches to patrons twice a day.
Dominick explained he stepped up as soon as he heard of the pantry’s shortage of food. Other donations were reported flowing in, including a $50,000 matching grant from auto dealer Billy Fuccillo.
While praising the gifts, Michelle Jordan, of the Interreligious Food Consortium, which coordinates the work of about 70 volunteer food pantries in Onondaga County, cautions us to remember the need is general, not particular.
“Every one is finding it more difficult to meet the need,” she explained.
Michelle’s been on the front lines of this passionate campaign against hunger close to 12 years. She’s a former social worker.
The need is particularly intense within the city of Syracuse, which has about 46 food pantries and many families who live below the federal poverty level. Some pantries are open daily, like Assumption’s, and others are open but once a month.
Michelle’s take on the situation is that pantries have been pressed by hard times because of the economic conditions, the demands of Hurricane Sandy elsewhere, the holidays and the limited number of volunteers. “There is a general need, all over,” she says.
Dominick Battaglia says he was delighted to step in and help out Assumption and hopes his example will inspire others to donate.
Dominick’s has been in business on its little corner of the inner city for 20 years. The business has 28 employees and has developed into a model of a busy, full-service community grocery. Dominick prepares some 4,000 cooked meatballs — “ready to drop in the pot,” according to the proprietor – and grinds its own Italian sausage in house.
The grocery also has a home delivery service which Dominick feels he could connect to the needs of Assumption clients who are house-bound.
“We do about 30 to 40 deliveries a day,” he explains, “from taking your order, boxing it up and even putting away the perishables when it’s delivered. I think we can provide this service to some of Assumption’s people.”
He starts reciting all the goods he plans to pack in the pallets of food he’ll deliver to Assumption: macaroni and cheese, rice, spaghetti and sauce, green beans, fruit cocktail....
Dominick got himself named to the Northside Hall of Fame in 2007 for his good works in the neighborhood which reaches well into Assumption’s North Side territory.
“I try to help out in my neck of the woods,” he explains. He also is a landlord in the district, buying run-down homes in the Hawley-Green neighborhood and fixing them up to lease to tenants of modest means.
In announcing the possibility of closing, the Franciscans who run the food pantry at Assumption said the challenge is tied to the dwindling financés of the program and fewer donations of food. “Our food pantry is in a desperate situation,” Brother Nicholas Spano, the pantry’s director, told a Post-Standard reporter Tuesday. “The problem is that hunger never stops; it’s always with us. We could be in the same position again come February.”
The pantry’s vital need is for sustained support, the friar said.
Dominick's Neighborhood Market