Friday, March 20, 2009

People Are Good to Us

The Utica Common Council honored the volunteers of Mother Marianne's West Side Kitchen this week with a proclamation and a good citizenship award.

Betty Frank, SFO, accepted on behalf of Father Richard Dellos, pastor of St. Joseph-St. Patrick parish; Deacon Gilbert Nadeau, soup kitchen director, and all the volunteers.

Council member James Zecca read the proclamation "praising Mother Marianne's West Side Kitchen and volunteers on the occasion of their first anniversary," and then displayed the "West Utica Good Citizenship Award" presented to volunteers "in recognition of their community service to helping others in need."

The proclamation:

-- noted that the soup kitchen was named after Blessed Mother Marianne Cope, the parish daughter who went on to devote the last 30 years of her life as a Franciscan missionary to the lepers of Hawaii's Molokai.

-- cited the "150 kitchen volunteers" who "have served nearly 20,000 lunches and logged over 10,000 volunteer hours serving the poor and homeless in our community."

-- extended the Common Council's "gratitude, appreciation and sincere thanks for the outstanding work, dedication and positive service to our community."

-- honored "the unified efforts of all who have supported and contributed" to the soup kitchen's "success."

The presentation, originally scheduled two weeks earlier, was postponed when a resident attending the council meeting suffered a fatal heart attack and the meeting abruptly ended. In accepting the proclamation and award, Frank invited city officials to visit the soup kitchen any weekday between 11:30 and 12:30, and said the volunteers were grateful to the community for all the support the operation has received.

Frank, a professed Secular Franciscan who helped organize the Mother Marianne Prayer Group and Shrine at the parish, added:

"People are good to us."

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

You Can Show Up Tired, and in 5 Minutes, You're Not Tired Anymore

It was time for soup kitchen volunteers to celebrate.

Mother Marianne's West Side Kitchen reached its first anniversary March 10. Volunteers had cooked, prepared and served more than 20,000 noontime meals. And given up 10,000 hours.

But the talk at an anniversary Mass and reception was about the gift of serving.

"By the grace of God, after one year, we know it is a privilege to be able to serve people in our community...especially those who are hungry or in need," Fr. Richard Dellos, pastor, said in his homily.

While enjoying refreshments and cake, a number of the 35 volunteers who attended -- out of over 100 -- turned their thoughts to the people they serve, and to an unexpected joy of working together.

"One of the wonderful things is when the people come in, they thank us for the food, and when we smile, they thank us for smiling," said Ana Pereira.

Added Diane Hnat: "I can't tell you how nice the people are. If you say, 'God bless you,' they say 'God bless you' back."

Joanne Lockwood mentioned the camaraderie.

"We have a good time in the kitchen," she said.

"We do!" said Diane.

"If somebody's having a bad day, we help lift each other up," added Ana.

"Thank you for your efforts," Deacon Gil Nadeau, director, told the volunteers. "I say that on behalf of the people who sit in the dining room and eat with a smile on their faces."

Referring to the 10,000 volunteer hours, he said: "You can't put a price tag on that...Everything is totally volunteer. That's why it works, why we're self-sufficient."

Bob Oderkirk, who with wife Donna coordinates the Wednesday evening food production, mentioned how blessed they were with the 20-plus volunteers who turn out every time they get together.
Each of the past two production nights, the crews prepared over 1,000 sandwiches and over 20 gallons of soup.

"We're able to keep the freezers stocked...and it doesn't seem like work."

They start the evening with prayer, with helps set the tone, he said, and suddenly, the fun starts.

"You can show up tired, and in five minutes, you're not tired anymore."