Waterbury Irish to use canceled St. Pat’s parade as a chance to help the hungry

New Haven

WATERBURY, Conn. (WTNH) — Waterbury’s Irish community has stepped up this year when times have been tough.

In the spring, they mobilized, along with the Waterbury Pipes and Drums, to salute the first responders at St. Mary’s Hospital with a heroes parade to lift their spirits.

That’s what they hoped to do on Saturday, March 6 for the entire Waterbury community. That’s when The Friends of The Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH) — an Irish Heritage organization — was going to host the big St. Patrick’s parade.

Instead, because of the pandemic, they’ve come up with a Plan B to help the entire city spread goodwill. Instead of doing nothing that day, the AOH is holding a big food drive to help address an issue that’s become a big problem in Waterbury during the pandemic — food insecurity.

On Saturday, March 6, they hope to greet a parade of cars at their community club filled with food. The plan is to stuff a castle that they’ll have in their parking lot and then take all of that food to a local soup kitchen and food pantry called “Greater Waterbury Interfaith Ministries” (GWIM) on East Main Street.

Every day, it isn’t hard to see a long line of people waiting for hearty meals that workers at GWIM hand out to people struggling to be able to afford enough food on their own.

“We’re calling it The Fighting Irish Fighting Hunger,” Work said. “We have people who have needs and those needs have gotten harder with the pandemic.”

Workers at GWIM say they feed nearly 200 people a day. Many outside in line today didn’t want to speak on camera with News 8. One man named Frank did. We asked him what it feels like to be hungry every day.

“Uncomfortable,” he said. “Uncomfortable.”

Work says his culture has experienced that before in their history. That was part of his calling in putting this event together.

“The Irish people experienced a famine back in 1854 for three years where thousands of Irish people died because we couldn’t grow potatoes,” Work said. “And so, we remember those things, we remember our heritage.”

Work says it’s also part of the Irish culture and heritage to stand up and help others. That’s what he’s hoping for during this unusual and rewarding St. Patrick’s celebration.

“We’re just really, really glad that we’re able to do something to chip in and help,” Work said.

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