- Published: 11 May 2018
"I have a job. I now have a car and it’s brought my family back together. I am forever grateful for Chef Ralph and Dalton and the Providence Ministries and Kate's family."
Rafael became a familiar face at Kate's Kitchen a few years back when his life spiraled during a difficult divorce and his family separating. Not one to keep idle, he found himself at Kate's for meals and to help out. Upon a move to Springfield he lost touch and was having difficulty managing the shifts of life. On the morning of his daughter’s sweet sixteen, she had one request: a cake. The one place he knew he could go was to Kate's. He picked up his bicycle, and rode over to Holyoke with high hopes. He not only found a cake, he was delighted to be packed up with takeaway peanut butter and jelly sandwiches along with some fruits and veggies.
While there, Rafael recognized a familiar face; Ralph Webb the Executive Chef of foodWorks@Kate's Kitchen. Rafael recalls vividly, "Chef Ralph looked me directly in the eye and said, 'I can get you a job.'" Rafael was intrigued and delighted that someone saw him—his full potential albeit his current struggle. Rafael not only left with the Sweet 16 cake his daughter hoped for; but a renewed sense of purpose as he promptly enrolled into the upcoming class of foodWorks@Kate’s Kitchen.
Rafael, a tenderly quiet man, is remarkably memorable no matter where he goes. FoodWorks' Instructional Chef Dalton Clarke, recognized something special in Rafael immediately and pushed him to realize his full potential; Rafael recalled that "Chef Dalton saw my drive and passion and I am thankful that he did." According to Dennis Henry, Executive Chef, Sheraton Springfield, who hired Rafael upon graduation from foodWorks@Kate’s Kitchen back in February 2018, "I saw that same drive in Rafael and it hasn’t stopped. In fact, he was recommended as Employee of the Month after only three months on the job. Most employees are not recommended until six years into the job…and it is a huge accomplishment to be nominated at all given there are over 250 employees."
When asked what was the most challenging of the foodWorks@Kate's Kitchen work, one could easily imagine that his answer would have included his daily bicycle trek from Holyoke to Springfield and back, for 13 weeks but not so. Rafael says the job interview was the most challenging; "Everything I had worked for, to get a job, depended on this."
Henry has been with the Sheraton Springfield for seven years and though a native, left the area for a while only to return to be closer to his family and grow his Sheraton Springfield team. He deems Rafael a great investment and continues to keep an eye open for foodWorks@Kate's Kitchen graduates to build his team. In fact, our ties to the Sheraton remain close ones, as Dalton Clarke is a former employee of Henry's and they continue to find ways to partner. In June 2017, our students joined in for the prep and presentation of the Springfield Union Station reopening.
Upon reflection, Rafael thoroughly enjoyed his foodWorks@Kate's Kitchen training and shared, "I have a job. I now have a car and it’s brought my family back together. I am forever grateful for Chef Ralph and Dalton and the Providence Ministries and Kate's family."
- Published: 30 Apr 2018
"There is so much need in our community. If everyone and every company did just one thing, just think how much better off we all would be."
Just recently Jeannie and Mike Filomeno of Marcotte Ford found themselves digging into Mike’s golf bag in his car in our parking lot off Cabot Street when serving a meal they delivered at Kate’s. A gentleman had approached them, thanking them for always returning and saying how much he looked forward to their food and visits, but he had one small request: "Do you have any socks you can spare?" Mike and Jeannie had to act; they simply could not turn away. This is how Jeannie and Mike lead their daily lives; in the service of others.
Jeannie and Mike Filomeno of Marcotte Ford are at Kate’s Kitchen once a month in service to others. They deliver 100 hand-made Easter baskets, serve Jeannie’s own homemade manicotti and salad to community guests, bring filled backpacks for the children as they go back to school each year. In July the entire Marcotte family & team set up a tent, bringing their own grills and food, to treat our neighbors to a huge family style picnic.
In fact, our Kate’s Kitchen and Margaret’s Pantry family would seem incomplete without the Marcotte family. And when our Margaret’s Pantry needed a new fridge this year or needed new garage doors, the Marcotte family acted.
How does someone connect with community in this way and show this level of compassion? It all started over 8 years ago when Jeannie and her brother Bryan wanted to serve at a local soup kitchen and they called Kate’s, spoke to Brenda and went down to meet her. They hit it off and committed to serving right away. For Bryan and Jeannie Marcotte, community service has always held a strong value in their family and when they got involved with the life-changing work at Providence Ministries, they found it to be infectious. “It’s important for us to give back to the community that has given so much back to us over the years.”
It may have began with Bryan and Jeannie, but it now is the entire family and team of Marcotte Ford employees; together they serve as an enormous, inspirational example of compassion in action.
What inspires them most about the work of Providence Ministries: “We have so much respect for the tireless work the employees and volunteers exhibit 365 days a year. And in emergencies Providence Ministries is first on the scene with clothing, blankets and support and now helping families relocate from Puerto Rico.”
Clearly compassion comes alive in everything Jeannie and Mike do when they give back and it does not stop with them. If they were to share ONE thing it would be, “There is so much need in our community. If every person did ONE THING a year, it would make a huge difference. It would be great if other businesses got connected with the work of PM and get their employees involved. They would enjoy helping and supporting their community and would want to continue what they started.”
- Published: 23 Apr 2018
"Every minute and every item donated helps someone, somewhere."
"As a middle class family of five, we struggle sometimes to get assistance." said Jessica Bigelow Leary a dedicated volunteer at Margaret’s Pantry. "My family either makes too much or not enough—we’re right on the cusp. Two years ago we were selected as one of the first Veteran families through Revitalize CDC for a home makeover and through that experience we were introduced to Providence Ministries. We then participated in the annual adopt-a-family holiday program here at Providence Ministries where my children received Christmas gifts and food enough for our holiday meal.
As a way to give back, Jessica began volunteering at Margaret’s Pantry. She has really enjoyed the opportunity to work alongside long-time Pantry Manager Brenda Lamagdeleine and other volunteers and misses it when she’s not there.
In addition to leading her family as a rock star mom and wife, Jessica is also a pursuing her degree in special needs education at Holyoke Community College. She truly believes that there is always some way she can contribute to her Holyoke community. "When I’m out and about I tell folks like me, in the middle class, about Margaret’s Pantry as a tremendous resource. Since my family has been members of the Pantry, I am not longer stressing about what we’re going to eat; we have not gone hungry." Jessica also added the dignity she felt coming to the pantry; she recalls Brenda telling her "…it’s no one’s business what you make, if you are in need we are here for you."
Jessica brings her husband and son to volunteer with her and encourages others to become more involved; to host food drives beyond just Thanksgiving and Christmas. While the physical size of the pantry is small, the heart of its mission is huge and our volunteers, like Jessica, make it such. Jessica says, "There are always things to organize, grocery bags to pack and people to feed." When asked what Jessica would share with others about her experience, she stated simply: "Every minute and every item donated helps someone, somewhere."
Recently, Jessica stepped forward to run the pantry during Brenda’s medical leave. Because of Jessica’s compassionate care for others, the pantry doors remained opened and folks were fed.
Compassion is within all of us and it surely dwells in the heart of Jessica.
- Published: 17 Apr 2018
"Everyone has value, recovery happens through relationships, don’t give up, you can do this. Asking for help epitomizes strength and resiliency."
Compassion is within all of us. Michael is one shining example of leading from compassion within.
Born in Holyoke and raised in East Longmeadow, Lewis is an esteemed recovery coach, recovery coach supervisor and Bureau of Substance Abuse Services facilitator who respects all pathways to recovery. Lewis recently celebrated 29 years of sobriety and is passionate about supporting people towards their own recovery and wellness. In addition, he is a proud veteran and former instructor in the United States Marine Corps, serving for 8 years.
Recognized as a community advocate, bridge builder, and leader, Lewis fosters the peer support model of recovery and serves in various roles; including Director of Housing at Providence Ministries, Veterans Advocate and a facilitator for The Nurturing Fathers men’s group. His lived experience in recovery has shaped the person he is today. He speaks openly about his childhood trauma of prejudice from both Black and White groups as well as his PTSD from active duty in the military. “After all this time missteps can still happen” he explains, “doing the next right thing in stressful situations is key to staying on track with your recovery. There are no off days on this journey. It’s critically important to find what works best for you and to have circles of support nearby.”
For Michael that circle includes his life partner, Michelle and his faith. He also continues to be inspired by his grandmother; he recalls her daily compassion in action, her tenacity to overcome barriers and blaze trails as the first African American nurse at Holyoke Hospital.
Of being Director of Housing Lewis shares, “I am blessed, honored and excited to be part of the excellent work of Providence Ministries. I believe that recovery and wellness happens in relationship and PM’s philosophy is a wonderful match.”
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