MARY'S CORNER (KATHLEEN LAMANNA PHOTO)
MARY'S CORNER (KATHLEEN LAMANNA PHOTO)
Mary's Corner, run by the local Ladies of Charity, provides impoverished mothers with baby and toddler items. The volunteers are working to serve the Albany Diocese's growing refugee and immigrant population.

The first Mary's Corner location opened in 2010 in Cohoes; in 2013, a second location opened at the Sister Maureen Joyce Center food pantry in Albany's Arbor Hill/West Hill neighborhood (read previous stories at www.evangelist.org).

A third, temporary site opened in 2016 at St. Francis of Assisi parish in Albany, with the specific intention to serve the many immigrants and refugees in the surrounding neighborhood. The group may have to relocate in the future.

Candice Stellato and Ellen Bernier are co-coordinators of Mary's Corner. Mrs. Stellato said the group is seeing more and more families from Iraq and Afghanistan at the St. Francis of Assisi location, along with some from Burma and Vietnam.

Families can come to Mary's Corner once a month, having been referred by local food pantries and organizations such as Family Promise of the Capital Region and the Albany chapter of the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (see story on page 11).

They are provided with products mainly donated by parishes, schools and community groups -- baby food and formula, diapers, clothing, books, strollers, baby seats and more -- and information sheets with details about local services available to the families.

Communication with the families is often a challenge for Mary's Corner volunteers. Mrs. Stellato speculated that the fathers and children have more interaction with the wider community, which boosts their English skills, while the mothers may be more isolated.

"For the most part, the mothers do not [speak good English]," the coordinator said. "They either rely on the husband or somebody who might be working with them, like a USCRI volunteer or a child who is going to school, [to] interpret."

The volunteers use photos of the products they offer to help families shop, and assist patrons in choosing items and their monthly allotment of three age-appropriate children's books. The St. Francis of Assisi site has some books available in Arabic and English.

"The families are very lovely. They're very appreciative of the help," said Mrs. Stellato. "We all work together and try to make it a nice experience, and try to understand each other as best we can."

(Contact Mrs. Stellato at cstellato12@gmail.com.)