The Franciscan Sisters of Atonement distribute food and clothing from their Cordova Street convent next to Oppenheimer Park on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. ((Fransican Sisters of Atonement Benevolent Society))

A group of nuns who hand out food and clothing to Vancouver's most needy residents says it's time for a new generation of workers to step up.

The few remaining members of the Franciscan Sisters of the Atonement will vacate their Downtown Eastside convent after eight decades.

The New York-based order arrived in Vancouver in 1926 and, over the years, has offered religious and language programs, day care, kindergarten classes, a clinic and room and board.

A statement issued by the Archdiocese of Vancouver says the sisters have helped more than 500 people every day at their East Cordova Street mission.

A religious order called the Missionaries of Charity, which was set up by Mother Teresa, will move into the sisters' convent to continue their work.

Archbishop J. Michael Miller says the Archdiocese of Vancouver owes the sisters a debt of gratitude for their long-standing service.