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.

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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.”