Thursday, December 24, 2020

‘It’s like a miracle,’ Santa observes

 John Knight was observing the line of people winding its way through the soup kitchen, getting take-out meals before heading his way. In fact, he was the center of attention because he wearing a white beard and red suit.

“Merry Christmas,” he shouted repeatedly. “Be sure to get your gifts.”

Monday, September 28, 2020

‘This must be where I’m supposed to be’

 Ed Morgan stepped up to head Mother Marianne’s West Side Kitchen nearly four years ago. After four months on the job, he decided to ask some volunteers how they thought the operation was going.

“I guess it’s alright,” Cheryl Wakeel said. “You haven’t pissed me off yet.”

Another responded by saying, “Who are you?”

Cheryl Wakeel, Ed Morgan, Darren Woods
Cheryl Wakeel, Ed Morgan, Board Chair Darren Woods.

Ed recounted that exchange during a recognition dinner for volunteers and donors, held Sept. 26 at Club Monarch – where Ed announced that Cheryl was the Fr. Richard Dellos Volunteer of the Year. Cheryl is one of those volunteers he could really rely on, noted Ed, who is retiring for health reasons. When he needed something done, he would call her and “never got a no.” 

Cheryl was a little more than surprised by the honor.

“I was absolutely shocked.”

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

She Thought It Was a Necklace

 West Side Boutique Coordinator Nancy Robert read an article about Emilie Fancett, a 13-year-old girl who collects and gives away rosaries. She reached out to the girl’s mother, Brenda, about making some rosaries available to soup kitchen patrons. 

Brenda and Emilie Fancett
Brenda and Emilie
Emilie and Brenda visited West Side Kitchen Aug. 26 and not only donated over 150 rosaries, but also several boxes of crayons and coloring books, stuffed animals, school supplies, games, prayer cards, prayer booklets, and Bibles.

Nancy was thrilled, but she couldn’t help but wonder: Why the love for the rosary?

It all started with Vacation Bible School at St. Patrick-St. Anthony Church in Chadwicks, where then-8-year-old Emilie received a goodie bag. Inside was a rosary.

It was a curious thing for her, being raised a Presbyterian. “Do I wear it as a necklace?”

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Youth Brings New Life to Boutique

Yijia (Cindy) Xing was finishing a chalk drawing of a long slender tree. It seemed to gracefully bend, following her fingers. Branches with hanging leaves spread in different directions, extending its reach.

“This represents the mother of life,” the 16-year-old artist said. Child-like angels under the tree, she noted, “bring news of new life.”

Drawing of tree with student artist
Yijia (Cindy) Xing (photos by R. Stronach)

Likewise, Yijia has been helping to bring new life to West Side Boutique as it prepared to reopen during the lingering pandemic. The boutique’s blackboard walls also feature characters from the Disney movie, Lion King, and from the Disney cartoon, Lilo and Stitch. Flanking a display of costume jewelry are portraits of two princesses – Cinderella and Snow White.

Soup kitchen guests got to appreciate her artwork when the boutique reopened Aug. 12, and Yijia and three other students (Grace Zhang, Richard Chen and Leon Zong) got to help them (under pandemic guidelines that included temperature checks, face masks, limited visitors at one time).

Yijia (Cindy) Xing
Yijia, who is entering her junior year at Notre Dame High School, learned about West Side Kitchen and Boutique from her “host sister,” Grace Zhang. A long-term international student, Yijia hails from Liaoning Province in northeast China.

“She has been here since she was in 8th grade,” noted Grace, who herself just completed her freshman year at Cornell University. After high school, Yijia hopes to attend college in the States, too. 

Regarding the soup kitchen and boutique, she noted:

“This is a very good place. They’re helping people, which is very valuable in this community. I am very glad I have the chance to be a volunteer here.”

Monday, July 20, 2020

It's a Time of Grace

When Grace Zhang began the second half of her freshman year at Cornell University in January, little did she realize she would soon be putting into practice leadership skills she was discussing in class – and helping a soup kitchen at the same time.

Grace Zhang
When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, she says her leadership professor, Donna Lynn Haeger, mentioned opportunities to help out. She pointed Grace to Cornell’s “Serve in Place” grant, created to help communities suffering from the pandemic.

Grace (who is majoring in applied economics and management with a minor in leadership) did some research, and decided to apply for the grant on behalf of the local Front-Line Appreciation Group (FLAG), which, she explained, has been “delivering snacks and supplies to 30 different hospital units and other front-line groups” like police stations, fire departments, and soup kitchens. She won an $800 grant and ever since has been coordinating an effort to benefit West Side Boutique and Mother Marianne's West Side Kitchen.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Who’s Applauding Whom?

Donations are important to the effort to feed the hungry. But words of appreciation have equal impact.

The staThank Youff and volunteers at the soup kitchen think they should be thanking donors.

More often than not, it’s the other way around, notes Director Ed Morgan.

“I can’t tell you how often someone makes a donation, and they THANK ME.”

For example:
  • “We are always awed by all of the volunteers, the behind-the-scene work that goes into what you provide,” Anita and Peter Parisi wrote in a note accompanying their recent donation.
  • “Please allow us to thank you for the work that you and your organization does to feed those in need in our area,” Pat Costello wrote on behalf of the Irish Cultural Center board. A check was enclosed representing donations from their social media outreach.
  • A note from Mike and Kelly Parsons, pledging a monthly donation, began: “Yesterday as I was driving home, I saw a gentleman leaving Mother Marianne’s with a meal. Thank you for providing so many who are in need.”
Perhaps Anita and Peter put it best: “It’s easy to write a check and think we did some good, but are humbled by the thought of people who really care and do the work. We hope that all of you know that those of us sitting at home want to applaud all of you.”

And then we say a simple prayer of gratitude: Deo gratias.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Busy Easter without the Loud Chatter

It was a busy Easter Sunday at Mother Marianne’s West Side Kitchen -- except there was no loud chatter permeating the dining hall.

Director Ed Morgan and four volunteers prepared Easter dinners of ham, scalloped potatoes and glazed carrots, and packed them in to-go containers.

They handed out a total of 156 meals, which also included salad, fruit and desserts.

That wasn’t all.

“Eighteen kids came by,” Ed notes, "and were given Easter baskets" donated by Bonnie and Darren Woods. In fact, the couple prepared a total of 64 baskets, which provided goodies to children over the next couple of days.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Volunteers unfazed by pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic struck. Businesses and schools shut down. Most people stayed home.

But the volunteers at Mother Marianne’s West Side Kitchen continued to show up to feed those in need – the poor, the jobless, the underemployed, the homeless.

In fact, the volunteers were “unfazed.” That’s how Kitchen Director Ed Morgan put it.

There was one big change, however. Instead of serving guests in the dining hall, they prepared hot meals-to-go.

"Guests come in the front door; pick up a meal, dessert, fruit on tables set up, and leave through the back door," Ed noted. "This works well, and any contact closer than 6 feet is minimalized."

The volunteers are “amazing,” he added, saying he was humbled by “their continued commitment during these difficult times.”

Monday, February 17, 2020

Birthday Girl Donates Gifts for Christmas


Thanks to some thoughtful people, families who visit the soup kitchen were able to bring toys home to put under their Christmas trees. There were also some 30 children who got presents from Santa himself when he visited the soup kitchen Dec. 23.

Among those thoughtful donors were Katherine Divine, the Remsen VFW, and anonymous givers such as the man who showed up at the last minute with three sacks of gifts just when toys were running short.

Katherine's donation was special. She is 10 years old. Her birthday falls close to Christmas, which means she usually gets a lot of presents. She told her parents she wanted to celebrate her birthday by giving away her gifts. She chose Mother Marianne’s West Side Kitchen.

Katherine came with her parents, Charlie and Sue, and brother, Leeds, to drop off the gifts, as well as get a tour of the soup kitchen and church.

“She wanted those less fortunate children to have a nice gift for Christmas,” Kitchen Director Ed Morgan noted.
The Divine Family
Katherine with her dad, mom and brother -- and donated gifts 
at the soup kitchen. Photos by Edward Morgan.