Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Volunteers unfazed by pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic struck. Businesses and schools shut down. Most people stayed home.

But the volunteers at Mother Marianne’s West Side Kitchen continued to show up to feed those in need – the poor, the jobless, the underemployed, the homeless.

In fact, the volunteers were “unfazed.” That’s how Kitchen Director Ed Morgan put it.

There was one big change, however. Instead of serving guests in the dining hall, they prepared hot meals-to-go.

"Guests come in the front door; pick up a meal, dessert, fruit on tables set up, and leave through the back door," Ed noted. "This works well, and any contact closer than 6 feet is minimalized."

The volunteers are “amazing,” he added, saying he was humbled by “their continued commitment during these difficult times.”

Monday, February 17, 2020

Birthday Girl Donates Gifts for Christmas


Thanks to some thoughtful people, families who visit the soup kitchen were able to bring toys home to put under their Christmas trees. There were also some 30 children who got presents from Santa himself when he visited the soup kitchen Dec. 23.

Among those thoughtful donors were Katherine Divine, the Remsen VFW, and anonymous givers such as the man who showed up at the last minute with three sacks of gifts just when toys were running short.

Katherine's donation was special. She is 10 years old. Her birthday falls close to Christmas, which means she usually gets a lot of presents. She told her parents she wanted to celebrate her birthday by giving away her gifts. She chose Mother Marianne’s West Side Kitchen.

Katherine came with her parents, Charlie and Sue, and brother, Leeds, to drop off the gifts, as well as get a tour of the soup kitchen and church.

“She wanted those less fortunate children to have a nice gift for Christmas,” Kitchen Director Ed Morgan noted.
The Divine Family
Katherine with her dad, mom and brother -- and donated gifts 
at the soup kitchen. Photos by Edward Morgan.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Passing the Christmas Spirit

“I got emotional. These kids were overwhelmed with joy.”

Volunteer John Knight was overjoyed himself. He got to dress up as Santa Claus, chat with over 30 children, and hand out gifts along with helper elf Lynda Schmelcher.

This is the second year John played Santa at Mother Marianne's West Side Kitchen.

“I love it. As you can see, it brightens up the kids’ day.”

The gifts they handed out – for children aged one to 12 -- were all donated.

Outreach Coordinator Nancy Robert pointed to the VFW in Remsen, which donated four bags of toys, as well as several anonymous donors.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

A Special Place in Her Heart

Marianne Turczyn grew up in St. Joseph and St. Patrick parish, and because of that, she says, “Mother Marianne’s West Side Kitchen holds a special place in my heart.”

She also pointed to a connection with the soup kitchen’s namesake, who herself spent her childhood and young adult life in the parish before becoming a Franciscan sister and heading to Hawaii to care for lepers.

“Saint Marianne Cope grew up in West Utica very near my own childhood West Utica homestead. Unknowing at the time, I walked past her home as my siblings and I walked to St. Joseph's School -- now the site of the West Side Kitchen.”

Friday, December 6, 2019

A Christmas Wish List

With Christmas approaching, many of us have a wish list. Our children typically wish for the latest toys, gadgets and fashions. We adults are not above wishing for new gadgets ourselves. Or perhaps a better job. Or more meaning in our lives.

Nancy Robert has a Christmas Wish List aimed at putting a smile on the faces of people in need.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

The People on the Front Lines

I was at the Seraphicum in Rome, Italy recently where I got to chat with a Franciscan missionary friar who has adopted the causes of caring for orphans and abandoned elderly on an island off the western coast of equatorial Africa.

The Seraphicum
The Seraphicum
I also got to chat with a Secular Franciscan from Venezuela whose Franciscan fraternity is feeding school children from destitute families and providing a free pharmacy for families hard-hit by their economy.

I got to share what we’re doing at Mother Marianne’s West Side Kitchen in a city where over 30 percent of its residents live in poverty.

The common thread is who is responding to people in need. They are people of faith. People with strong connections to churches. They are the ones on the front lines.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Soup Kitchen Docs Hope to Thwart 'Silent Killers'

Dr. Mark Warfel and Nancy Robert
Dr. Mark Warfel (left) and Nancy Robert (right).
People who don’t access regular healthcare may suddenly find themselves the victims of silent killers like heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

That’s why Dr. Mark Warfel was interested in reaching out to the underserved population through Mother Marianne’s West Side Kitchen (after outreach volunteer Nancy Robert approached him about doing health screenings at the soup kitchen).