The hot meals are back on the table as a popular south Madison social service center reopened after being closed by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Madison in the spring.
Two months after Bishop Robert Morlino shut down the Catholic Multicultural Center, he returned on Monday to help reopen it. He said the economy, not a loss of faith in the center's mission, prompted its closing. The center offers numerous outreach services for minorities and those in financial need.
This was the first time the bishop has gone to or talked about the center since he decided to close it because of budget cuts. The bishop said he's "very, very happy" the center is again offering services to the poor, WISC-TV reported.
The center, located on Beld Street, officially reopened with a food pantry and its first free nightly meal. Volunteers are again serving up food and hot coffee to those in need. The returning staff and clients say they are thrilled.
"Where before it was like the Last Supper, today it was like Easter," said Andy Russell, the center's director. "I'm very proud and happy to be here."
Roberto Padylla gets kidney dialysis treatments thee times a week but is homeless after losing a job. He said he's again relying on the center for food, laundry and above all, job assistance after finding none elsewhere while the center was shut down.
"I live in the shelter and I go out the shelter every morning 7 a.m. and go to the office looking for a job, but nobody help you," he said.
On Monday afternoon, Morlino met Queen of Peace parish Monsignor Kenneth Fiedler, who spearheaded the reopening of the shuttered facility. The bishop angered some when he closed it in late May with only a few days notice after the diocese learned its fundraising effort was falling far short of its goal.
As part of the reopening, Morlino gave a $100,000 check, but said a bad economy forced the center's closing in the first place. He said he never abandoned its mission.
"We laid of six people from my staff, which I really needed and I was very sad to do that, but this is time where we all have to make sacrifices because o the economy," Morlino said.
Morlino went on to praise the parish and all who helped reopen the facility. The bishop, who is recovering from heart problems after a trip to Rome, said he was "deeply grateful" to Fiedler, his parish and all who helped.
The diocese has promised the center another $50,000. Fiedler said he hopes for more funds down the road. In the meantime, staff said they have $350,000 in the bank to cover a year. They said they're confident that level of donations can be maintained.
Stay tuned to WISC-TV and Channel 3000 for continuing coverage.