Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Seeing God in Those on Margin of Society

Lepers were once truly afflicted outcasts, and because of that, the term is sometimes used for dramatic effect in describing those on the margins of modern society – such as the poor, the homeless, the disabled. In 13th century Italy, it came as a shock for many, and an inspiration for others, when Francis of Assisi saw instead the image of God in lepers and took it upon himself to embrace them.

Katie Koscinski
Katie Koscinski, OFS
Katie Koscinski, OFS, has come to have a similar high regard for those who are nourished at Mother Marianne’s West Side Kitchen. Besides being the recently appointed volunteer coordinator, Katie is a Secular Franciscan who was involved in the soup kitchen’s founding.

“I don't want to just give them food for their stomachs. I want them to feel loved, welcomed and respected. To me each person who walks into the kitchen is Jesus.”

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

An array of faces, and that's just the volunteers

Utica College volunteers Dana, Kiersten and Alyssa
Dana, Kiersten and Alyssa
It was their first day volunteering at Mother Marianne’s West Side Kitchen.

The trio of graduate students from Utica College will be back every Wednesday for the next two months as part of the master’s degree program in occupational therapy. They prepared trays to hand out to guests who packed the soup kitchen Wednesday, Sept. 21.

“I think it’s a really great program (here),” noted Dana Simpson, who was there with fellow first-year grad students Kiersten Stone and Alyssa Almeida.

Shirley Schmelcher
Shirley Schmelcher
Bob Surprenent
Bob Suprenent
While the three were new to the soup kitchen, there were a few Wednesday regulars.

Among them were Lynda Schmelcher and her parents, Shirley and Bob Schmelcher. Lynda was serving food along with Elvira Turpin (who volunteers four days a week).

Shirley was helping with preparations in the kitchen along with Bob Surprenent (who volunteers Mondays and Wednesdays, prepping food, doing dishes, “whatever needs doing” and “enjoying it").

Elvira Turpin and Lynda Schmelcher
Elvira Turpin & Lynda Schmelcher
Xaverian Brother Leonard Wojtanowski, CFX, a retired teacher, was busy washing dishes and putting away pots and pans.

“It’s really rewarding,” notes Shirley. “For some guests, this may be the only hot meal of the day.”

She and her family are “giving back” because “the community has been good to us,” especially when they had operated a roller skating rink decades ago.

The Wednesday crew chief, Cheryl Wakeel, was popping up everywhere, including spending a moment with Cindy Green, a work life skills community assistant from Oneida-Lewis ARC.
Br. Leonard
Br. Leonard

“I find satisfaction from helping here in the soup kitchen,” Cheryl says. “It’s a feeling I can’t describe. I get so much more back than I give.”

Meanwhile, Bob Schmelcher was out in the dining hall entertaining guests on his “echo harmonica,” a semi-circular contraption boasting seven harmonicas. He was showing off with a performance of Edelweiss.

Like many of the new regulars, Bob and his family have been volunteering for a couple of months.

“It was my wife’s idea.”

Cheryl Wakeel & Cindy Green
Cheryl Wakeel & Cindy Green

Bob Schmelcher with echo harmonica
Bob Schmelcher with echo harmonica