Broome County Council of Churches Executive Director, Rev. Dr. Joseph Sellepack is the guest on the weekly, local public affairs program, Southern Tier Close Up to discuss how the agency is helping to steer the region through difficult times.

Kathy Whyte/ WNBF News- Broome Council of Churches Dr. Joe Sellepack

One of the most recognizable programs operated by the council is the Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse (CHOW) program, which Dr. Sellepack says, has faced monumental challenges in meeting the need for food assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic emergency.

Sellepack says from March through June CHOW packed and distributed food packages and moved supplies through the pantries at four times the normal volume it normally handles for that period, all with dealing with the fact that most of the volunteers the program relies on is in that vulnerable group of senior citizens.

Broome County CHOW

The Reverend adds, he relies on his faith as he anticipates another spike in demand for CHOW's help as people come off unemployment in the upcoming weeks.

Faith, according to Sellepack, is also in his corner as the Council of Churches continues a long tradition of fighting bias and bigotry.

As the Council prepares to open a new, low-cost grocery store this fall in the "food dessert" community on the Northside of Binghamton, Sellepack says providing necessities for all people with dignity and respect also addresses the concerns of the Black Lives Matter groups and others working for an end to racism and injustice.

The new grocery store has been a project the Council has worked hard on for three years acquiring funding, permitting, dealing with site regulations and even delays due to weather and a global pandemic.  Once open, the store will be stocked with affordable fresh and other food from sources specializing in community-run food stores that also benefit their neighborhoods. Dr. Sellepack says the store will be open to everyone and all the money goes right back into the community.

To find out more about the Broome County Council of Churches, its programs and ways to help, go to www.broomecouncil.net.

Southern Tier Close Up can be heard Sunday at 6 a.m. on 99,1 The Whale.