This article was originally published in WSCC’s print newsletter, Miracles on 32nd Street, in May 2019. To subscribe to our newsletter, please click here. For subsequent editions of Heroes for Hope, please stay tuned to our social media channels.
Sr. Rosemarie Carfagna, Volunteer
On Tuesdays and Fridays, I help out in the kitchen, preparing the noon meal. I love the hands-on experience of working with food, especially knowing where the food is going and why I am making it. Our nutritionist, Kaitlyn Kesner, is gradually introducing healthier options into our menus, and the clients like them better than ever. Yesterday we made sautéed apples with a little butter and brown sugar for dessert, and the aroma wafted out into the Resource Center. So many people asked what the wonderful smell was. They really appreciated the special, healthy dessert.
One day after lunch I was going to my car and I saw a family - mom, dad and three children - who were turning away because they had been told we were finished serving for the day. They looked so distressed, and I could tell the kids were hungry. I approached them and said I would be happy to go back inside and find something for them. The father, whose pride had been hurt, turned away and pulled his family with him.
Just then, Mike [Bernot, WSCC Advancement Director] pulled up to the center. He could see that something was going on, so I told him what had happened. Coincidentally, he had bags of sandwiches in his car, which he was delivering to the center. I called out to the family, who by this time had crossed the street, to wait. The father didn’t want to stop, but the mom and kids stood still. Mike ran after them across the street and down the block to give them some sandwiches and to tell them to come back to the center to see if we could be of more help. I get chills just thinking about it.
As I hear bits and pieces of the clients’ stories, I get glimpses into their struggles and their sheer determination to go on. One woman who I see regularly showed up one day and mentioned casually that someone had broken into her tent the night before and stolen “all her stuff.” At that point it was a throwaway line for her, par for the course for a streetwise homeless woman. We served her lunch and she moved on.
When I saw her the next week, I asked how she was doing. She told me that the volunteers in Clothing and Housewares had set her up with “all new stuff.” She was smiling and happy. I think she felt really cared for. Because she was one of our regular clients, she seemed to have received the gold star treatment. But I must say, honestly, that every single one of our clients gets the gold star treatment every day.
It is an honor for me to join the line of thoughtful, generous people who have been serving the neighborhood for so long. I hope to continue to dish up lots of good food for the struggling, hungry, but most importantly, hopeful people that we serve.
Marie Tables, Family Coach
I’ve worked at WSCC for 23 years. I can remember back when I first started, a mother had left and moved into her own place shortly before being diagnosed with breast cancer. She took her son to Providence House while undergoing treatment, but stopped by to thank me and the WSCC staff for all that we had done for her family. During that conversation, she looked and sounded so good, talking about her plans for the future with her five-year-old and how excited they both were.
What she didn’t mention is that she had been placed into hospice. A week later, she passed away. Many of our WSCC staff members attended her funeral. It was a heartbreaking occasion for us after witnessing her recent success and her excitement for the new chapter of life for her and her son. I will always remember her loving disposition and the way in which she always thought about others, despite the pain she was in herself. Even though she was going through battles of her own, she wanted us to know how thankful she was that we were there for her family.
This experience taught me a lot. Through it, I was able to see the importance of reaching out and offering a helping hand, even if only in a small way. The families I feel like I’m not helping usually are the ones that remind me that I am!
Being a great listener and remembering the small things helps me to connect. It makes them feel like I am really in the conversation, and that I am invested in providing them with resources and referrals to help with their needs. And truly, I am invested. I believe this is my calling, and I really enjoy coming to work knowing that I can make an impact each day.