Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Christmas Blessing

Some 185 people celebrated Christmas at the soup kitchen Thursday. The hungry. Those alone for the holiday. And volunteers full of Christmas cheer.

It was a record number, and a huge jump over the 100 people who enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner there.

Not only did they enjoy a Christmas menu of turkey, stuffing, yams, squash, salads, rolls, pies and candy cane, but they also were treated to gifts left by Santa's helpers. Personal gifts for the men and women, and toys for some 20 kids.

"Everything went very smoothly and we had just the right amount of food," notes Deacon Gil Nadeau, soup kitchen director. In fact, "the food was great, and nice and hot."

He offers a "special THANK YOU" to the "small army of volunteers" who "kept things rolling along smoothly," who "cleaned up," and who helped make the "Christmas Dinner a total success."

Bob Oderkirk (the evening volunteer food preparation supervisor), Donna Nelson and Jeannette Williams, SFO, "did a magnificent job setting up and directing the 'action'," Deacon Gil notes. "Liz Droz added some nice menu items and really chipped in." And Marilyn and Dave Schwalbach "handed out a goodly portion of the over 200 toys we had displayed in the chapel."

It was a Christmas blessing. For everyone.

Monday, December 22, 2008

You Won't Be Alone

"People ask me how we got the idea to start a soup kitchen," Deacon Gil Nadeau told the congregation at the weekend Masses.

"It was through prayer."

In praying, in communicating with God, "we received a call to come down off the mountain" and take action. "You responded with your support. You responded with your donations..."

"A few days ago we surpassed 15,000 meals served, and that's just in the first nine months of operation. I thank you for that, for making it possible..."

"Jesus commanded, feed my people. We all responded."

Deacon Gil noted that the soup kitchen would be open on Christmas Day, serving a turkey dinner.

Everyone is invited, he said. Hungry neighbors. Senior citizens. Anyone who may be alone this Christmas.

You won't be alone at Mother Marianne's West Side Kitchen.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Kids Put Faith into Action

"I feel like I'm working at a restaurant," 6th grader Emma Short giggled as soup kitchen guests started arriving Monday at Mother Marianne's West Side Kitchen.

"That's exactly right," beverage station volunteer Veronica Prezybyla shot back. "Only, you don't get any tips!"

Emma was one of ten 6th graders from St. Mary's School in Clinton who were excited about returning to the soup kitchen to volunteer.

They were a little nervous before they came the first time, back in November, teacher Bernadette Verna admitted. But they took to it right away, she said, and "they've asked to come back."

She added: "They feel as though they're doing something worthwhile, and they bring a joy with them. The guests seem to really appreciate it."

The adult volunteers were all smiles, too. "We love having the kids here," noted volunteer daytime supervisor Joanne Lockwood.

"They're so enthusiastic about helping out," added Pat Fletcher, a regular Monday volunteer who was there both times the 6th graders showed up. "They do everything: They wash the dishes, they go out and clean the tables, and they serve the food. They make it fun to be here."

Fun also was how 6th grader Anne Krysczuk described working there. "I feel like a waitress."

Sixth grader Jack Hughes said, "It makes you feel good when you help people," and classmate Daniel Hillman was convinced their presence "really helps the needy."

Sixth grader Madeline Krasniak spoke of a sense of community: "I like helping here because it's for the good of the community... We all should care about each other because we're all part of the same community. It doesn't matter who's richer or poorer."

The students arrived with some 20 bags of food and goodies to donate to the soup kitchen -- the spoils of a "dress down" day at the elementary parochial school, where kids got to leave their uniforms home for a donation of foodstuff.

In addition to Mrs. Verna, the contingent from St. Mary's included two parents, Kelly Liddell and Maureen Hughes, and the following students: Madeline Krasniak, Anne Krysczuk, Emma Short, Audrey Bartels, Collin Liddell, Troy Newman, Michael Howard, Daniel Hillman, Tyler Jury and Jack Hughes.

"We're always preaching to them" about loving their neighbors and helping people in need, as part of a Virtues Program, their teacher said. Here "they get a sense of people 10 miles away from them who need help; it's not some other country."

In other words, she said, "They're putting faith into action."