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Rescue Mission Alumni Banquet Celebrates
"Coming into the Light"
at 16th annual event.
The Rescue Mission of Utica held its 16th Annual Alumni Banquet May 17 at Tabernacle Baptist Church.
Pointing to the evening’s theme, “out of darkness into the light,” staffer and emcee Ernie Talerico said that’s what overcoming addictions is all about. And God makes it all possible, he told some 150 attendees that included graduates of the Mission’s Parker House Residential Treatment Program, family members, staffers, board members, volunteers and friends.
The banquet was dedicated to the memory of Parker House graduate Patrick Marley and included the presentation of a memorial plaque to his parents and siblings.
His memory is a reminder of how God changes lives, Talerico said.
“It’s just a wonderful community here,” Marley’s sister, Diane, told the audience. “We will always love and appreciate everyone here at the Rescue Mission for what they did for my brother…They rescued Pat.”
In fact, she said, her brother was able to become a leader among his peers and “helped others get better, too.”
Staffers and graduates recalled how Marley helped lead prayer group sessions and Bible study at his apartment that became so popular that the sessions had to move onto the Mission campus.
He was also a member of the Mission’s softball team. “Pat was the only person I know who could hit a line drive to second base and beat it out,” said Talerico.
Another highlight of the evening was the presentation of the Clarence Seaburg Scholarship, named after a former executive director, to a Parker House graduate seeking to advance his education. Chaplain Rick Johnson presented this year’s award to Utican Tom Salsbury, who is pursuing a nursing degree at Mohawk Valley Community College while working as an emergency room nurse’s aide at Faxton-St. Luke’s Healthcare.
“I started to volunteer at the hospital while I was here, and I loved it,” Salsbury said.
The evening also featured testimonies by other program graduates who consistently pointed to the Mission’s faith-based approach as making a life-changing impact.
“I’d like to begin by thanking the Lord,” said Eric, who came in from Connecticut where he is now an assistant manager at a business and has reunited with his family. “It’s amazing what God can do with a man, a woman, a human being.” He spent five months at the Mission after being released from prison. At first, “I didn’t want to be here,” he recalled. But then he discovered that God wasn’t done with him. “He has exciting things in store for each and every one of us.”
It has been three years since he was in the residential treatment program, another graduate, Dale, said. And while at Parker House, he decided to bake a birthday cake for his niece. That led to him being asked to bake a cake to celebrate a staffer’s birthday, and people started saying, “you have a real talent.”
Working hard in the Mission’s Learning Center, Dale said, he was able to apply to the Culinary Institute of America. He graduated with an associate’s degree there last September and is now pursuing his bachelor’s in culinary arts.
“I owe it all to the glory of God…and you guys here at the Rescue Mission…”
Another graduate, Renard, said simply: “I was a broken soul. What the Rescue Mission did was to encompass the soul of the man.”
A former Seaburg scholar,who is now a licensed practical nurse working two jobs, he noted: “The Rescue Mission taught me to overcome my problems rather than have problems overcome me.”
A fourth graduate drew rousing applause when he said: “Tonight, I have been about five and a half years clean off drugs and alcohol.”
And he is working toward getting his CASAC license to become a certified alcohol and substance abuse counselor.
A fifth graduate, Tony, likes to spread the good news about God, and tells people, “if you’ve seen me before (as a drug addict) and you see me now, wouldn’t you want what I have?”
The last impromptu testimony came not from a graduate, but from the Rev. Barrett Lee, who, fresh out of the seminary, spent two years as a counselor and care provider at the Mission’s Addictions Crisis Center. He thanked the staff for giving him a real education.
“They take it out of the text book and put it into reality. That’s what these guys do.”
That experience led the Episcopal priest to start St. James Mission, a ministry to street people.
The evening began with welcoming remarks by Mission Board President Tom Wattles and the invocation by the Rev. Marv Isum. Rick Denner sang and performed on the electric piano, and the Rev. Dr. Mark Caruana gave the closing prayer.
Photos from 16th Alumni Banquet