The Food Pantry at Villa Maria College, in Buffalo, NY, began in 1986 when it became evident that a number of students and employees were in financial difficulty. Inspired by a magazine article from the Los Angeles Times describing student outreach at Palomar College in San Marcos, California, Villa Maria Professor Joseph Yonder, conceived the idea of outreach to those in need. Beginnings were small; a single table in the cafeteria near a door for easy access and anonymity, and a few bags of donated non-perishable goods became the base for student and neighborhood outreach to the poor and hungry.
In 1987, Sister Josette Smigielski , campus minister at that time, recognized the growing need for expansion, and moved her office to make way for enlarging the Food Pantry. Soon donated items made the room a storage area and a hospitality space to provide a refreshing cup of coffee to clients as they waited for service.
In 2008 the Villa Maria College Food Pantry was renamed and dedicated to Sister Mary Josette Smigielski, who passed away suddenly on January 17, 2008.
Under the direction of subsequent campus minister, Frank Antonucci the pantry grew and expanded to its present service of approximately 560 households and 1200 individuals per month. From one table in the cafeteria, to a quarter of the basement floor of the College’s Music Building in just over 20 years is testimony to the community outreach and ministry of Villa Maria College.
In 2013, Sister Mary Michaelanne Galas, through prayer and discernment, thought it might be time to change her ministry from the classroom to another venue. Today, Sister Mary Michaelanne Galas, a cherished friend of Sister Josette, manages the Sister Mary Josette Food Pantry to carry on her vision of serving needy students and members of the community. This is not only a wonderful tribute to her friendship for Sister Josette, but also an example her true Felician Francican service.