"Without community service, we would not have a strong quality of life" - Dorothy Height, social activist.
An open house volunteer recognition ceremony was held on Thursday at the St. Susan Center to acknowledge the men and women who serve the community through the soup kitchen.
According to Susie Hooper, assistant to the director of St. Susan's, the annual event recognizes the hard work of every volunteer.
Pictured is Marjorie Allesi, center, recipient of the Sarah R. Pollaro exemplary service award and the 2012 volunteer of the year award; and her family.
P-J photos by Dusten Rader
Pictured from left are: Kathy Nicastero, St. Susan board member; Yvonne Bisel, board; Eileen Goodling, board; Susie Hooper, assistant to the director; and Kurt Gustafson, St. Susan’s president. Hooper was recognized for her service to St. Susan’s.
"This is a time to say, 'Thank you,' to the community for supporting us," said Hooper. "It's to let the volunteers know how great we think they are because we could not keep our doors open if we did not have volunteers."
Including staff and volunteers, about 100 people showed up to the event. Sue Colwell, executive director, has been out on medical leave, but took the time to attend the event as well.
"This is our third year hosting this event," said Colwell. "We wanted to have an open house to invite people from the community and to recognize our volunteers. We're always busy in the kitchen, so this is a way of showing how much we appreciate everybody. And, we plan on continuing this every year."
Each year one person who exemplifies the spirit of volunteerism is selected to receive an award. This year's recipient was Marjorie Allesi. She was presented with the Sarah R. Pollaro exemplary service award and the 2012 volunteer of the year award.
"This year's award goes to a beautiful lady who has been with us from the time St. Susan's opened its doors," said Hooper. "She's so very faithful to us, and she comes in every week with a smile on her face for volunteers, staff and guests alike."
Allesi said she was shocked when she heard the announcement that she was the volunteer of the year.
"I'm thankful, appreciative and I'm overwhelmed," said Allesi. "I'm sure that we all get more out of it than we give. You get to know the people, and you feel good about what you've done every night when you go home."
Assemblyman Andy Goodell was present to dedicate the certificate of merit for the 2012 volunteer of the year award to Allesi.
"This organization touches so many people in so many ways," said Goodell. "And, every day that you volunteer here, you're making a difference in someone else's life. This type of volunteer work, and this organization, is what makes Chautauqua County a special place."
The event, which included a dinner, was catered by Bill Vanstry and his crew which included Rick Heald, Anne Ecklund, Lynne Tobias and Cliff Wilkin. The dinner included clams casino, sweet and sour meatballs, pork potstickers with oriental sauce, beef quesadillas, chocolate dipped strawberries, fruit, cheesecake and more.
"I enjoy helping where I can," said Vanstry. "I've known Sue Colwell for many years, and from time to time she's allowed me to use the soup kitchen for other events. I retired a couple years ago, so I told her that anytime she needs something to let me know, so she did."
Although Andrew Passenger of Jamestown has been a volunteer for St. Susan's for many years, he attended the dinner for the first time.
"It's been nice to see everybody doing the best they could to help keep people fed," said Passenger. "I thought the dinner tonight was great, everything was so delicious."
According to Kurt Gustafson, St. Susan's president, the St. Susan Center plays an important role as part of the community, and the event pays tribute to those who have given so much to make the organization a success.
"So many people give their time, talents and donations - it's absolutely incredible," said Gustafson. "The center is decorated so nice around the holidays, and you don't see anybody here without a smile on their face. It's a fantastic group of people to work with because we do great work here. We're so proud and pleased with all the volunteers, so we have this special night for them."
St. Susan Center is located at the Gateway Center, 31 Water St. in Jamestown. For more information about call 664-2253 or visit stsusancenter.org.