Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Everybody Becomes Family

Thanksgiving at a soup kitchen

Kevin Shelanskey
Kevin Shelanskey
Kevin Shelanskey called the 27 volunteers together to give last-minute Thanksgiving Day instructions prior to opening the doors at Mother Marianne’s West Side Kitchen.

Before assigning people to their posts, he first made an appeal.

“I just met a family out there that doesn’t have enough money to buy diapers for their children. Can we come up with some money and get diapers for them?”

The volunteers began reaching into their pockets and pulling out one, five, ten and 20 dollar bills. Within seconds, $113 was handed over to two women who volunteered to go on a diaper run. Trish LaBella and Lisa Morgan returned with enough diapers and baby wipes to hand out to several families who came in from the freezing rain to enjoy a traditional turkey dinner with all the trimmings.

“It’s a side effect of what we’re doing, but it’s awesome,” said Kevin, a counselor at John Bosco House who chaired the soup kitchen’s Thanksgiving effort.

Photo Gallery
Not quite sure how many people to expect, chef Bill Bogan, Kevin and crew prepared over a dozen turkeys, 60 lbs of potatoes, 20 lbs of stuffing, plus vegetables, squash, sweet potatoes. And, thanks in large part to the Knights of St. John, some 135 pies were donated.

Kevin said they ended up serving about 100 people. Greeters wished them a Happy Thanksgiving and directed them to sit at a table of their choice. Servers quickly followed with trays of a full turkey dinner, and before they were finished, New Hartford Troop 4 Boy Scouts Zachery Connolly and Christian Sierson made the rounds with trays of desserts and whipped cream.

Several families came to volunteer, all having a similar purpose:
  • as parishioners, “we feel good to give back to the community; I feel pride,” as Michele Connolly noted;
  • “to give back and see smiling faces,” as Giovana Annatone said;
  • “to help out” and “teach their children” about assisting people in need, as Vikki Commisso put it.
Kevin himself said something similar, pointing to “community service” as a way to keep youth well-balanced and grounded, as he watched his high school freshman daughter, Ashley, pitch in. “It hit home for her,” he noted, especially after seeing someone she knew from school come in for a hot meal.

Perhaps volunteer Patty Nessel, there with family and friends, summed it up best:

“Everybody becomes family, including people you don’t even know.”

Snow Day Brings Out Young Volunteers

Monday was a snow day, with many school closings in the greater Utica area.

That meant more youngsters would be showing up with the adults at Mother Marianne’s West Side Kitchen. And three of them, it turned out, were volunteers.

Volunteers Moriah, Linda and Sophia
Moriah and Sophia with grandmother, Linda VanDusen.
Moriah, a 17-year-old student at Proctor High School, and her 11-year-old sister, Sophia, decided to join their grandmother, Linda VanDusen, a regular Monday volunteer. Sophia said she wanted to help because, as her sister, Moriah, put it: “I heard they were short-handed and there were people in need.”

That was because Volunteer Coordinator Katie Koscinski, OFS, put out an urgent call for help when it looked as though the snowstorm was sidelining several Monday regulars (especially when new volunteer Kathy Leslie showed up to an empty building).

Before long, a bevy of volunteers joined Kathy and began donning hairnets and disposable gloves, preparing food, prepping serving trays, brewing coffee, making hot chocolate, putting out ice tea and punch, and setting up serving stations.

Joshua and David Schiavi
Joshua and David Schiavi
Among them were David Schiavi, a 6th grade teacher at Conkling School, and his 13-year-old son, Joshua, who took advantage of the snow day to help out.

Volunteering at a soup kitchen is a practical part of Joshua’s social studies curriculum, David noted.

Quipped Joshua: “I do it because my mom wants me to.”

Joshua is a bit of a celebrity at the parish. As his dad put it: “Father (Richard) Dellos saw an essay he wrote on fatherly love, and asked him to read it at the Father’s Day masses.” So “he memorized it and gave it in church at every mass.”

Up to then, Joshua had no interest in public speaking, noted David, who also is the speech and debate coach at Proctor High. “Father Dellos kick-started it.” Joshua just won second place in an area speech contest, and has his sight on state competition.

Kathy Leslie
Kathy Leslie
Meanwhile, some 76 adults and 10 children came in from the wind and snow for a meal at the soup kitchen.

“They help a lot of people,” including struggling families, noted the new volunteer, Kathy. Remembering volunteering with her grandmother at parish events, she said: “I thought it would be good to come in and help out.”

Meanwhile, 11-year-old Sophia told her grandmother she really enjoyed helping out.

“She wants to keep her hairnet and put it in her memory book.”