A recognition event for volunteers and donors on Sept. 26 put a special spotlight on volunteer Cheryl Wakeel and retiring Director Ed Morgan.

Cheryl was honored as the inaugural Father Richard Dellos Volunteer of the Year.

Ed was lauded for running and growing the soup kitchen operation for nearly four years.


Volunteer Dinner Album

Photos by Robert Stronach

The volunteer of the year award is named after the former pastor of St. Joseph-St. Patrick Church who recently died from COVID-19-related complications.

When Ed announced her name, Cheryl said afterwards, “I was absolutely shocked.”

She started volunteering almost nine years ago, cooking two days a week. More recently she has been volunteering every Monday, cooking and washing dishes, along with her son, Gregory, who has been doing a lot of the cooking.

Volunteers brought a cake to thank Ed for his leadership, and Volunteer Lynda Schmelcher knitted a latch hook pattern with the image of a cross to present to Ed on behalf of all the volunteers.

Interim Director Mike Pilat read a certificate of appreciation from Utica Mayor Robert Palmieri, declaring “Edward Morgan Day in the City of Utica.”

Assemblywoman Marianne Buttenschon made a surprise appearance to present New York State Assembly proclamations honoring Ed for his compassionate commitment to help those in need and recognizing Mike for stepping up to head the operation.

Advisory Board Chair Darren Woods, who served as emcee, presented Ed with two special items – first, a soup kitchen name tag with the title of “Director Emeritus”, and then a crystal plaque with an inscription attesting to his “love of the mission,” “tireless commitment,” “care and attention” to guests, and “respect and appreciation” for volunteers.

Ed reacted by saying he is “better at giving thanks” than receiving, and noted:

“Working at Mother Marianne’s West Side Kitchen has made me a better person… All you volunteers have become very dear friends of mine.”

He singled out a number of volunteers among the 53 people present for special praise.

“This is by far the best job; I love it,” he said, but he has to step back because of his health. Darren pointed out that Ed will continue to serve on the advisory board.

Fr. Richard Kapral, the new pastor, helped open the event with an invocation, and before he offered the closing blessing, Darren singled out some donors for special praise:

  • Joe Tamer/Centennial Moisture Control
  • Donald A. VanWaes
  • Michael J. Valentine & Raymond Mele
  • Bank of America/in honor of Susan Simmons
  • Carl Skinner
  • Sheila & Ron Cuccaro
  • Tom Talbot
  • The Bombas Giving Team
  • Marianne Turczyn
  • Kathleen Kane
  • Food Bank
  • Darren & Bonnie Woods
  • Mazloom Foundation/Community Foundation
  • Laborer’s Local #190
  • Compass Food Group
  • Carlo Masi & Son
  • Holland Farms — Marilyn Wilson
  • Club Monarch —  Elaine and Joe Hickel

PHOTO AT TOP: Cheryl Wakeel receives the Fr. Richard Dellos Volunteer of the Year Award from retiring Director Ed Morgan (center) and Advisory Board Chair Darren Woods.