Sometimes a single moment can sum up the positive feeling Lori Myers gets from volunteering on Easter Sunday.
The Colonie woman was helping out around the Capital City Rescue Mission on South Pearl Street when she was approached by a homeless man who offered her a hug. She was among a crew of more than 70 volunteers who helped make the mission’s Easter banquet possible and the man wanted to show his gratitude.
“He told me this was so special,” she said. “It makes you realize people appreciate what you do.”
The holiday meal normally draws roughly 1,800 diners to the mission and this year’s feast was no exception. For most of the afternoon, the mission’s cafeteria remained packed with people attending the meal; outside, a long line stretched from the take-out area where volunteers were handing out boxed dinners.
“A lot of them are here because they have nowhere else to celebrate,” said Perry Jones, the mission’s executive director. “The mission has become a home for the holidays.”
While the national economy has improved, there are some who are still not feeling that positive impact. Jones said he continues to see people from the lower economic strata coming in for assistance at the mission.
“Right now, the economy among those with lower incomes has been horrible,” he said. “They need food.”
Max Ansong, the mission’s chef for the last 18 years, made sure no one left the feast hungry. Over the course of a three days, he cooked 450 pounds of ham, 360 pounds of yams, 200 pounds of dressing, 375 pounds of potatoes and 35 gallons of gravy — all dedicated to feed the city’s needy.
“That has kept me going, Coming in every day to help people in need is fulfilling,” he said. “Me being able to do this is rewarding and I think that’s what Easter is about.”
University at Albany senior Victoria Petrushenko spent the afternoon serving plates from the mission’s cafeteria. Though she volunteers throughout the year, she said working on Easter is especially gratifying.
“I feel like I’m part of the family when I come here,” said. “It feels good to help on Easter, especially because I can’t be with my own family.”
Myers has volunteered at the mission for more than a decade. The week of the annual Easter banquet is tough, because she must balance her work in the public relations office of the state Division of Military and Naval Affairs with helping to prepare the meal.
But the hard work seems well worth it when she sees the reaction of the people the meal helps feed. She said moments like the hug put all the hard work into perspective.
“It’s important to give something to those who have less,” she said. “It’s a good feeling when you’ve made someone happy.”