UTICA — The Mary Tilton Clark dining room was packed to capacity with volunteers and patrons coming for a hot meal on Christmas Day.
The Rescue Mission of Utica held its annual worship service and dinner at its location on Rutger Street on Wednesday. The dining room was buzzing with activity; the Rescue Mission expected to serve 800 to 900 meals on the holiday, said Wendy Goetz, executive director of the Rescue Mission.
In addition to the service and onsite meal, the Rescue Mission distributed winter clothing such as hats and gloves and delivered about 600 meals to those unable to leave their homes. Goetz said the community support drives the Rescue Mission and its charitable actions.
“If it wasn’t for all the donations and time and money and supplies and food, we couldn’t do this,” she said. “So big shout out to the community. Our community has lots of love for the poor and needy.”
Pastor Nick Boyko, who led the service in the Clarence Seaburg Chapel prior to the meal, said the annual tradition is a blessing and something everyone involved enjoys.
“We want to join all together with the Rescue Mission and the people who are coming, and help them, bless them and rejoice together,” Boyko said.
For Jim Rondenelli, the Rescue Mission’s Christmas meal is an event he’s volunteered for year after year. He started by volunteering for the Thanksgiving dinner about 15 years ago, then added the Christmas dinner around seven to eight years ago.
Rondenelli said the meals are something he looks forward to and makes part of his annual holiday schedule.
“We’ve almost become like a family in the back,” Rondenelli said. “We pack the meals, and it’s been the same six or seven people for the last almost 10 years. So it’s sort of like seeing a second family, coming here to help out then going to have Christmas at home.”
Article by Steven Howe