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The Caritas Village brings Binghampton together

In the smack-center of a residential neighborhood sits a community center and restaurant that cultivates artists, encourages children and provides free medical services every Tuesday.

Located at 2509 Harvard Ave., The Caritas Village opened in December of 2006 and is in the heart of Binghampton.

“I always wanted a place where people could come together everyday, put their feet under the same table and share a journey,” said 70-year-old Caritas founder Onie Johns.

Caritas is home to an afterschool program, a Tuesday evening medical clinic, an art gallery, an artist-in-residence program, the Latino Cultural Center, a Democratic Women’s group, drawing classes and yoga.

They also operate a fully functional coffee shop and restaurant.

“It’s a stabilization, it’s a place where people feel safe and feel comfortable,” said Sandra Ferrell, 65, a Caritas volunteer of two and a half years.

Theatre Memphis currently hosts the free afterschool program twice a week, developing art skills in children along with providing snacks and helping with homework. Johns said the afterschool program is expanding to three to four times a week this school year and will be taken over by Rhodes College.

“It makes a difference to the people in the neighborhood and changes us as well,” Ferrell said.

Two to three doctors, five nurses, two interpreters and a social worker donate their time seeing 25 to 30 patients each Tuesday at the 6 p.m. to 8.p.m. clinic. While the clinic was designed for Binghampton, anyone without insurance is welcome.

Caritas also invites artists to display their work in the Hope Gallery art exhibit.

“It’s a great place that deserves more attention,” said 36-year-old Jesse DeLira, who displayed her work at Caritas in July. Regular gallery art submissions go to caritashopegallery@gmail. com.

“What’s cool about showing in spaces that are different than the traditional gallery is non-traditional spaces provide the best interactivity with art,” DeLira said.

The artist-in-residency program is another option. It provides an artist a free, private living space with an attached art studio for up to one year. Submissions for the residency program are on an annual basis and require a proposal. Caritas is a nonprofit organization that is mostly volunteer-based.

“This place feeds my soul,” said Trish McGhee, 65. “The atmosphere, the people and the community spirit.”

Caritas is open Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and interested volunteers can reach Johns at

“We need help in the kitchen, the coffee shop and general operations,” Johns said.

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