Friday, February 19, 2021

A Food Drive Blessing

 “We really have a lot of blessings. Our donors.”

 That’s how Advisory Board Treasurer Joe Antonik put it when reviewing recent donations to the soup kitchen.

Board Chairman Darren Woods gave special note to a group involved in a Christmas food drive. General Contractor Michael Bonacci of Whitesboro organized the drive, collecting $1,500 in foodstuffs and money from businesses and individuals.

volunteers serve holiday meals to guests

Thanks to donors like them, volunteers served 3,665 meals in December.

The rest of the story is that Michael was inspired to help the soup kitchen because of his wife Rosemary’s enthusiasm. Her public relations students at Utica College adopted the soup kitchen last semester, and got to see the operation first-hand.

As Darren put it: “They really are passionate about Mother Marianne’s West Side Kitchen.”

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Pythian Watchwords: Friendship and Charity

Dave Lowitz first got to know the work of Mother Marianne’s West Side Kitchen when he was working for the Resource Center for Independent Living (RCIL). At the invitation of Deacon Gil Nadeau, RCIL sent an outreach team to see the need first hand. They discovered, among other things, that 27 percent of the guests were homeless and 70 percent were unemployed.

Recently Dave recounted how impressed RCIL was with the work of West Side Kitchen, and that he had the pleasure of presenting Deacon Gil with RCIL’s Community Support Award back in 2010.

Knights of Pythias
Terry Reich, Ken Alcerin, Peter Carchedi, Dave Lowitz
In a visit to the soup kitchen on Jan. 11, Dave made another presentation, this time on behalf of the Knights of Pythias. Joining him were other members of the local lodge’s board – treasurer Peter Carchedi, Terry Reich and Ken Alcerin. They presented a check for $1,000 to soup kitchen Advisory Board Chair Darren Woods and Interim Kitchen Director Mike Pilat.

Peter said the donation came from the New York Grand Lodge’s Humanitarian Fund.

Dave pointed to the fraternal organization’s aim to help people through its principles of “Friendship, Charity and Benevolence.”

But perhaps Peter said it best:

“We know that you people do good work.”

Thursday, December 24, 2020

‘It’s like a miracle,’ Santa observes

 John Knight was observing the line of people winding its way through the soup kitchen, getting take-out meals before heading his way. In fact, he was the center of attention because he wearing a white beard and red suit.

“Merry Christmas,” he shouted repeatedly. “Be sure to get your gifts.”

Monday, September 28, 2020

‘This must be where I’m supposed to be’

 Ed Morgan stepped up to head Mother Marianne’s West Side Kitchen nearly four years ago. After four months on the job, he decided to ask some volunteers how they thought the operation was going.

“I guess it’s alright,” Cheryl Wakeel said. “You haven’t pissed me off yet.”

Another responded by saying, “Who are you?”

Cheryl Wakeel, Ed Morgan, Darren Woods
Cheryl Wakeel, Ed Morgan, Board Chair Darren Woods.

Ed recounted that exchange during a recognition dinner for volunteers and donors, held Sept. 26 at Club Monarch – where Ed announced that Cheryl was the Fr. Richard Dellos Volunteer of the Year. Cheryl is one of those volunteers he could really rely on, noted Ed, who is retiring for health reasons. When he needed something done, he would call her and “never got a no.” 

Cheryl was a little more than surprised by the honor.

“I was absolutely shocked.”

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

She Thought It Was a Necklace

 West Side Boutique Coordinator Nancy Robert read an article about Emilie Fancett, a 13-year-old girl who collects and gives away rosaries. She reached out to the girl’s mother, Brenda, about making some rosaries available to soup kitchen patrons. 

Brenda and Emilie Fancett
Brenda and Emilie
Emilie and Brenda visited West Side Kitchen Aug. 26 and not only donated over 150 rosaries, but also several boxes of crayons and coloring books, stuffed animals, school supplies, games, prayer cards, prayer booklets, and Bibles.

Nancy was thrilled, but she couldn’t help but wonder: Why the love for the rosary?

It all started with Vacation Bible School at St. Patrick-St. Anthony Church in Chadwicks, where then-8-year-old Emilie received a goodie bag. Inside was a rosary.

It was a curious thing for her, being raised a Presbyterian. “Do I wear it as a necklace?”

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Youth Brings New Life to Boutique

Yijia (Cindy) Xing was finishing a chalk drawing of a long slender tree. It seemed to gracefully bend, following her fingers. Branches with hanging leaves spread in different directions, extending its reach.

“This represents the mother of life,” the 16-year-old artist said. Child-like angels under the tree, she noted, “bring news of new life.”

Drawing of tree with student artist
Yijia (Cindy) Xing (photos by R. Stronach)

Likewise, Yijia has been helping to bring new life to West Side Boutique as it prepared to reopen during the lingering pandemic. The boutique’s blackboard walls also feature characters from the Disney movie, Lion King, and from the Disney cartoon, Lilo and Stitch. Flanking a display of costume jewelry are portraits of two princesses – Cinderella and Snow White.

Soup kitchen guests got to appreciate her artwork when the boutique reopened Aug. 12, and Yijia and three other students (Grace Zhang, Richard Chen and Leon Zong) got to help them (under pandemic guidelines that included temperature checks, face masks, limited visitors at one time).

Yijia (Cindy) Xing
Yijia
Yijia, who is entering her junior year at Notre Dame High School, learned about West Side Kitchen and Boutique from her “host sister,” Grace Zhang. A long-term international student, Yijia hails from Liaoning Province in northeast China.

“She has been here since she was in 8th grade,” noted Grace, who herself just completed her freshman year at Cornell University. After high school, Yijia hopes to attend college in the States, too. 

Regarding the soup kitchen and boutique, she noted:

“This is a very good place. They’re helping people, which is very valuable in this community. I am very glad I have the chance to be a volunteer here.”

Monday, July 20, 2020

It's a Time of Grace

When Grace Zhang began the second half of her freshman year at Cornell University in January, little did she realize she would soon be putting into practice leadership skills she was discussing in class – and helping a soup kitchen at the same time.

Grace Zhang
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, she says her leadership professor, Donna Lynn Haeger, mentioned opportunities to help out. She pointed Grace to Cornell’s “Serve in Place” grant, created to help communities suffering from the pandemic.

Grace (who is majoring in applied economics and management with a minor in leadership) did some research, and decided to apply for the grant on behalf of the local Front-Line Appreciation Group (FLAG), which, she explained, has been “delivering snacks and supplies to 30 different hospital units and other front-line groups” like police stations, fire departments, and soup kitchens. She won an $800 grant and ever since has been coordinating an effort to benefit West Side Boutique and Mother Marianne's West Side Kitchen.