The soup kitchen was a crowded scene of holiday cheer on Friday, Dec. 22.

Volunteers were serving a hot Christmas dinner.

Christmas music permeated the dining hall.

A story hour featuring several Christmas tales read by retired teacher Chris Taylor kept the attention of rotating groups of children who took turns visiting Santa Claus and his elves.

With abundant ho-ho-hoes, Santa (aka volunteer Curtis Damone) brought glee to the eyes of some 75 children, who each received several presents.

The gifts were made possible by donors like Stuff the Bus, Notre Dame High School, Utica National Insurance Co., Oneida County District Attorney’s Office, among others, noted Nancy Robert, outreach coordinator for the boutique side of Mother Marianne’s West Side Kitchen.

“There were lots of people,” commented kitchen manager Mike Pilat, noting they served “over 200 meals” that day.

Adding to the mix was a roving WKTV News Channel 2 photojournalist and a visit by outgoing Mayor Robert Palmieri, who announced a donation from city employees who contributed to a holiday basket raffle. He presented $1,740 to the kitchen and boutique.

Even though soup kitchen held its special Christmas celebration on Dec. 22, Christmas Day itself turned out to be somewhat busy, too.

Reported Pilat: “We did 175 total meals. Not as busy as expected, but it was nice. We handed out full pies to everyone in addition to their meals. Some children, but not too many. Five volunteer helpers were brand new for the day. They did well.”

Christmas Santa