Friday, October 11, 2019

A Big Heart and A Little Soul

Bernadette VanValkenburg
Many of our volunteers bring a big heart to Mother Marianne’s West Side Kitchen, caring for guests like they were family.

Some bring a bit of soul, breathing music into the air.

During the soup kitchen’s rededication day (Oct. 9), Bernadette VanValkenburg was playing the piano at one end of the dining hall, pouring out the joyful strains of “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Destiny.”

 Bob SchmelcherShe simply notes: “When they have enough help in the kitchen, I play the piano.”

At the other end of the hall, Bob Schmelcher was playing “How Great Thou Art” on a curious instrument called an “echo harp.” It holds several harmonicas in a semi-circle cage, providing Bob quick access to a broader range of keys and notes.

Kurt Krumme and Cassandra Harris Lockwood perform

Like Bernadette, Bob is a frequent volunteer. Twice a week the 85-year-old musician entertains while wife Shirley and daughter Lynda help to prepare and serve food.

Following a ribbon-cutting ceremony, the celebration moved across the street to the Irish Cultural Center for a reception honoring donors and volunteers.

Another talented person, Utica Phoenix owner Cassandra Harris Lockwood, volunteered to provide music for the reception. She sang and played the guitar, with Kurt Krumme accompanying on his guitar.

Their folk music provided an upbeat backdrop to the chatter of 75 donors and volunteers. Not to be outdone, Bob Schmelcher started “jamming” with them on his multi-tiered harmonica.

While kicking off a recognition ceremony, Cassandra invited Bob to join in a special performance of her original hymn to St. Marianne Cope, the soup kitchen’s namesake.

The result? A joyful voice. Resonating strings. Blending harmonic chords.

It was a cool scene, and perhaps a metaphor for a soup kitchen that links the homeless, the hungry, the volunteers, the donors. A song all its own.

Kurt Krumme, Cassandra Harris Lockwood and Bob Schmelcher perform.