That’s how Doris Goff described the sculpture dedicated to the people of Mother Marianne’s West Side Kitchen at St. Joseph and St Patrick Church in Utica.
It was unveiled at the soup kitchen’s 9th anniversary celebration March 12, 2017, perched atop an outdoor stone pedestal.
“I mean, it’s Jesus afterall,” Doris said, referring to the sculpture portraying Christ as a homeless beggar.
“Whatever you do to one of the least of my brothers and sisters, you do unto me.”
Advisory Board Chair Robert Stronach welcomed the small crowd gathered for the unveiling in the frigid 11-degree weather, which included Utica City Common Council President Michael Galime and Fire Chief Russell Brooks.
“We at the soup kitchen try to see the image of Christ in the people we serve,” he told the crowd. “This statue is the embodiment of that.”
“It’s a powerful message,” quipped John Sullivan, who with his brother built the pedestal from stone recovered from the former St. Patrick’s Church across the street (where an Irish Cultural Center is currently under construction).
Afterwards, Common Council President Michael noted: “The consideration that the statue pays tribute to those that Mother Marianne’s Kitchen helps day to day is moving. The facilities were welcoming, and it was clear that every individual whether a recipient or a volunteer was thankful for the morning.”
Even though she’s a parishioner of St. John the Evangelist in New Hartford, Doris didn’t want to miss the West Side Kitchen celebration, noting that she donates food on occasion.
“I do what I can,” said the 87-year-old woman, who has 12 children, 41 grandchildren, 65 great grandchildren and nine great-great grandchildren.
The sculpture, which is approximately 30” high x 28” wide x 27” deep, was created by Canadian sculptor Timothy P. Schmalz, who dubbed it: “When I was hungry and thirsty.” His website says it was inspired by the Gospel of Matthew and is “a visual representation of Charity,” where “we need to see Christ in the poor and hungry.”
Soup Kitchen Director Edward Morgan noted that it goes beyond feeding the hungry, as the operation has become a place of warmth and welcome. “They’re glad to have someone to talk to,” he said. “We try to give them the time to listen. They go out and no one gives them the time of day and they’re looked down upon.”
A guest grabbed Ed’s attention to chat a bit before leaving. He told Ed that he has come to appreciate “the joy of living” when “you leave it up to Him.”
After the man left, Ed noted that “wonderful” volunteers have an impact.
“The charity, the love they show gets reflected back by the patrons who come here. We get a lot of ‘please,’ ‘thankyou’, and ‘God bless you’. The conduct of the people is unbelievable.”
Among the volunteers serving up soup, sandwiches and anniversary cake were Ed’s wife, Marge, and daughter, Eizabeth; Ellie McNeil; Therese Brindisi, and Lucretia Hunt.
A plaque on the pedestal, next to a keystone (also from the former St. Patrick’s), reads: “The Key to Heaven: Faith, Hope, Charity. Dedicated to the people of Mother Marianne’s Westside Kitchen. March 12, 2017.”