Hearts for the Homeless feeds the poor every week and operates a thrift store on Buffalo’s West Side. Photo by Matt Brown

For over 20 years Hearts for the Homeless has led faithful outreach to the poor of Buffalo led by Ron Calandra and his wife, Peg, who have been with Hearts since its inception. Annually, the ministry reaches thousands of homeless and poor through their Mobile Soup Kitchen and helps meet the needs of the West side community through Hearts Thrift Shop. In 2010 alone more than 12,472 people were served.
The team includes five dedicated Mobile Crew Teams made up of 26 adult volunteers (including an 80 year old woman who has worked with them for over 15 years), each committed long term to one night per week. Thanks to their faithful service they make the outreach possible. Many other long term committed volunteers including some youth go out in tandem with adult supervision. Some need to put in community service, some have caught Hearts’ mission and want to serve on a regular basis.
Hearts relies heavily on the generosity of individuals, churches, and local organizations for its funding. While they do receive some matching donations from company employee giving programs at companies like Praxair, Liberty Mutual Foundation and the United Way, support at Christmas time from people who believe in the mission is always welcome.
Hearts' Mobile Soup Kitchen (an RV where they serve prepared meals, with a clothing pantry on board) has one stop— the Buffalo and Erie County Library, downtown Washington and Ellicott St., where they park under the overpass connecting the two library buildings. “Although we do not ask where the people are coming from, as we get to know the "regulars" we know that the homeless are dispersed throughout the city, live under city bridges and nooks and niches where they are shielded from cold weather and wind; and the poor families that have residences come from all over including the West Side, Riverside, and Downtown,” explained Ron Calandra.
For Calandra it’s knowing that he made a difference that makes it all worth it, “Knowing that when we go out and feed people at night they won’t be going to bed hungry is the most rewarding part of the ministry,” he explained. Yet the ministry is not without its challenges, Calandra said resources are always a challenge, yet God continues his faithfulness, “Having enough resources to lift more people out of their pit and improve their quality of life – that would be permanent and having more resources to impact more lives in bigger ways like getting someone a car – we helped a young woman get a car by which she was able to go back to school for nursing and succeed; we watched the hand of God move in her situation. —By Kyle Patterson with Ron Calandra