St. Mary Parish in Canaseraga wants to give everyone in the diocese a big thank you for helping the orphaned and abandoned children in Ghana. The Allegany County parish has successfully bought a van for Sister Stan Terese Mumuni's Nazareth Home for God's Children with the many generous donations from the community.
Sister Stan founded Nazareth Home for God's Children in 2009 to serve the "spirit children" of Ghana, West Africa. These are children abandoned by their parents because of physical, mental or behavioral disabilities who are considered bad omens. Sister Stan provides them with a home, food, clothing, medical care and love.
After a visit last fall, a Western New York Catholic news story alerted the Diocese of Buffalo to her need of a 15-passenger van to transport the children.
"Her kids were riding around in the back of a pick up truck, which is not safe or legal," said Jennifer Spoth, a member of the fundraising committee and pro-life coordinator for the parish. "She got pulled over a few times, but the police knew her situation so she didn't get into trouble. But, at the same time, she needed some safe transportation for them."
Generous donors provided $25,000 that went to purchase a 2017 Chevrolet Express 3500 with only 12,000 miles from Simmons Rockwell Ford in Hornell, which sold the van at cost when they learned it was going to a good cause.
"It should have a lot of life left in it for her," said Jim Claire, finance chair for St. Mary's. "We didn't want to get her something that would be problematic, particularly in finding a place to get it repaired."
Stories in the Western New York Catholic and Rochester's Catholic Courier alerted parishioners and local residents to the Sister Stan's need, and they pitched in to help. Fundraising efforts within the parish and with other area churches, such as Immaculate Conception in Wellsville, and a GoFundMe page brought in enough money to cover the cost of the van, as well as clothes, school supplies and toys for the children.
"When we started, we had no idea how long it would take to raise enough money to get a van. We were surprised we were able to do it as rapidly as we did. If you consider a year rapid," said Claire. "We're happy with the support we have received from the local population."
The van is now on it's way to New Jersey thanks to Silk Road Transport. From there it will ship to Africa via Elite Import & Export. The van is loaded with diapers, clothing, medical supplies and books for the children. Someone even donated a Craftsman tool set.
"We had it weighed. It's full of about 1,000 pounds of goods. I think there were 67 packages. I had to label each and every one," said Spoth, adding that having Sister Stan's name on the labels might save her from paying import fees.
The parish first met Sister Stan a couple years ago when she visited Our Lady of the Valley Parish in nearby Hornell, which had a priest who had served in Sister Stan's diocese back in Ghana. Through connections with that parish, St. Mary's became involved in the cause.
"The children are cast aside with birth defects and literally left alone on the side of the road," said Claire. "They're a bad omen to their culture, so they cast them aside."
Spoth said the parish plans to continue its relationship with Sister Stan, who comes to the States often with children needing surgery.
"We're going to stay in contact. When they need something else, we'll try our best to get what she needs."
Anyone who wishes to donate to help pay for shipping charges can send a check to St. Mary's Church, PO Box 189 Canaseraga NY 14822.