Melissa McCann of Poland showed up to volunteer at the soup kitchen this past week, helping to prepare meals, greet guests and clean up tables.
It was her first day, but it was anything but typical. A WKTV News Channel 2 photojournalist and a WIBX radio reporter dropped by. So did Jan Squadrito from the Community Foundation of Herkimer and Oneida Counties, Inc.
Jan was there to take part in a ribbon-cutting and blessing for a new walk-in freezer – purchased with a grant from the Community Foundation.The news media were there to cover the event and interview Deacon Gil Nadeau about the growing populace that the soup kitchen feeds.
“We started out feeding 20 to 40 people a day,” he said. “Now we’re feeding 100 to 125 people a day.”
In the first six months since opening March 10, “we served 8,933 meals.”
The unemployed and working poor primarily comprise the guests. A good percentage may be homeless at any given time. (Another agency that Deacon Gil invited interviewed 60 of the guests one day and discovered that 17, or 27 percent, were in need of shelter.)
With the soup kitchen staffed by volunteers, and operating on donations of food and money, the walk-in freezer came at a critical moment. It enabled West Side Kitchen to accept more donations, and not turn any away due to lack of storage space. It also replaced two failing smaller residential freezers.
Donations keep coming. As do volunteers, who may commit to a day a month or every other week. Like Melissa, who spent the summer working at Water Safari in Old Forge after graduating from Holy Cross Academy in Oneida. She decided to take a semester off to experience life before heading off to college. And what does she do? Volunteer at Mother Marianne’s West Side Kitchen.