Our mission is to help neighbors facing hardships to meet their immediate and transitional needs by providing food, clothing, and education.
In the early 1980s, Sister Jane Morrissey and Sister Cathy Homrok lived in the North End of Springfield. Noticing the increase in poverty and the needs of their neighbors, they dreamed of turning an abandoned home on the next street into a neighborhood center to help those around them who were struggling. With three fellow Sisters of St. Joseph and one lay person, Sister Jane and Sister Cathy bought 22 Sheldon Street and for two years they and countless volunteers renovated the 17 room house.
In 1984, the five Sisters opened The Gray House and began to provide services to meet the civic, social and educational needs of their neighbors.
The Gray House continues to help people meet their immediate needs and address the root causes of poverty by operating the Adult Education Program, Kids’ Club, Food Pantry and Thrift Store. With a poverty rate that exceeds 45%, the North End is Springfield’s poorest neighborhood and one of the poorest in the state. As poverty became a city-wide problem, The Gray House stretched its service boundary and now serves people from all neighborhoods in Springfield as well as some surrounding towns. In 2013, more than 11,000 people were served by The Gray House.
The Adult Education Program provides educational services to adult learners. This important program offers English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) services, basic skills (reading, writing and math) tutoring, beginner English conversation classes, and literacy development for resettled refugees. Services are offered in one-on-one and small group settings, providing students individualized lesson plans appropriate to their learning level. In 2013,136 adult learners participated.
Kids’ Club provides a safe, supportive environment for children in grades 2 – 5 who live in the impoverished North End of Springfield. The program helps children with their homework, teaches them the value and fun of learning, and engages them in constructive activities. In addition, there is a focus on peace and community building. Each week the children learn a new character word. They learn words like respect, honesty, collaboration, compassion and leadership. They learn what the word means and how to put it into action. Remembering that these children face hunger and recognizing the effects that this has on their health, they are served a nutritious dinner before their caregivers pick them up.
The Kids’ Club Summer Program provides children a safe, supportive and fun summer experience. Two two-week sessions are offered with 15 different children enrolled in each session. The children receive breakfast, lunch and snacks. With the exception of the first and last day of a session, the children are on field trips. This gives them the opportunity to explore the bigger world.
The Gray House Food Pantry provides food to people in need. Providing food is a life sustaining service. Adequate food and nutrition can reduce the risk of illnesses, behavioral and learning problems in children, and degenerative diseases among the elderly.
On average, 80-100 households receive food assistance each week. Since we are an emergency food pantry, households are allowed four visits a year. At each visit, households receive enough food for 3-4 days worth of meals. Over 30% of the food distributed went to children. Each year The Gray House food pantry distributes more than 72,000 lbs. of food to our neighbors in need.
The Gray House Thrift Shop provides clothing for men, women and children as well as hygiene products, and household items. Providing such items helps people meet their basic needs, but it can also help people gain a sense of dignity.
On a typical week, 40 people visit the Thrift Shop to secure clothing and goods for their families. Households may visit the Thrift Shop once a month. There is a suggested donation of $3 for a full bag of items. However, if one is unable to pay, that is OK. All the items in our Thrift Shop are donated by people in the community.