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Catherine Matthews. Photo: Canton Church and Community Program
Catherine Matthews. Photo: Canton Church and Community Program

Listen: feeding the people

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For many, the end of December is a time of giving. Volunteering and donating to people in need - it's all part of the Christmas spirit.

But when the holidays end, so does a lot of that generosity. In this next story, we hear from a Canton woman who helps the needy year round.

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Reported by

Zach Hirsch
Reporter and Producer

"Well my name is Catherine Matthews, and I’m the director of the Church and Community Program, which means I run the thrift shop and the food pantry. My primary is the food pantry. And I am from Brooklyn.

"So, St. Lawrence County, notoriously, has been a very poor county. It’s never been – we were at the bottom and we keep struggling up a few feet, and falling back down again.

"Now, according to our math that we’re doing,  almost 10 percent of Canton’s population comes here. That’s a lot of people. And this is not another welfare place. This is a family. And Canton is unbelievable. I don’t think there’s an aspect of our Canton society that is in some way or another involved with providing food to their neighbors.

"I think if you’re going to work in this kind of profession, you have to like the people. It’s not just a job, it’s not just taking care of ‘those poor people.’ It’s taking care of your brothers and sisters and your family. And we’re part of a community, though sometimes they are not treated like part of the community.

"One of the questions very often asked is not, 'How many people come?' or how many children do I serve. 'Are the people coming really in need?'

"These people that have all these bad opinions about the thievery of the poor. Walk in their shoes for a while. Years ago, when I was poor, I could always get a job. I worked three jobs to get through school. Today, even if you want to, you can’t.

"I think given an opportunity, these people could be just like me. And given bad times, I could be just like them. So where’s the difference?

"If I could give them a job somewhere they’d take it, and be grateful. But that’s not the way it is right now. The society, something’s happening in it, I don’t know what it is. And I can’t really get involved in that, I can just try to – as far as I’m concerned, we do what we have to do. We serve the people."

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