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Lady Blue Devils Deliver Lunches And Smiles

By Dave Ricci

It was a day where the Lady Blue Devils had almost as many smiles as they gave.

On Saturday, January 21, the members of the Kenmore West girls’ varsity basketball team volunteered their time at the St.Francis Xavier Soup Kitchen in Black Rock where they served lunch to 80 guests. The second time the Lady Blue Devils have come to St.Francis, which is located next to Assumption Church on Amherst St., the trip was arranged by Lady Blue Devils assistant coach Paul Catalano.

“I think what they get out of it seeing how good they feel about helping the underprivileged,” said Catalano. “They might not see this way of life back where they live. Then they come here and they see 80 people who are going to enjoy maybe the only real good meal of the week. The smile on their faces when they’re serving our guests something to eat. They interact with them and you don’t see one girl not smiling. And that tells it all. That’s what it means. It’s teaching our young people that they have to serve the less fortunate.”

Catalano and several of his neighbors from McKinley Avenue in the Village of Kenmore, the Lesters’, Slates’, Wegmans’, Wolskis’ and Jean McGregor, are all passionate supporters of the St.Francis Xavier Soup Kitchen. The girls first assembled at Kenmore West High School then carpooled to St.Francis. Upon arriving, the players were given instructions on what duties they would be taken care of. From serving the lunches and desserts to cleaning up and washing dishes.

It was an eye-opening experience for all of the girls, especially the varsity newcomers who were making their first trip to St.Francis Xavier and really weren’t sure what to expect. “Actually I was kind of nervous,” confessed first-timer Mineya Brown. “What If I don’t know what I’m doing and what if I mess up then get mad cause I’m messing up (delivering) the food. But now that I got the experience of giving them the food, telling them have a great meal…Helping them and actually having the experience (was great).”

Prior to the meal, seniors Grace Ferguson, Emma Pfohl and Anna Quinlan stood before the guests. Emma and Grace shared the duty of telling the guests about the menu of chicken parm, baked rigatoni, bread and desserts. While Anna was asked to say the pre-meal prayer. Looking out into the sea of faces of the 80 guests is when the magnitude of the moment hit Quinlan. “Yeah I think so,” she said. “Looking at these people it really makes you feel grateful for what you have and to not take anything for granted. Especially in today’s day and age when you can get too caught up in everything in life. It was kind of like a good experience to come here and stay grounded.”

The night before was a rough one for the Blue Devils. They fell to Lockport in a pivotal Niagara Frontier League game. Losing by 13 points it was one of those games that stuck with the players. The kind of loss that would make most high school kids think life is unfair. But in the light of the new day the Lady Blue Devils were reminded of what real struggle truly is. “I served this one guy as he came in and when I walked back (to the kitchen), and it’s not even that long of a walk, and he was already done eating his food,” said Alexis Rivera, who was visibly moved by the experience.

“It just makes you see how good of a deed you are doing and this is just an overall great experience for our team and for us as people.” Though the visit only lasted about two hours it had a profound affect on every girl. It reminded them of the importance of looking outside the four walls of their world. Yes, losing a basketball game is tough, but put into perspective it doesn’t come close to the daily battles the recipients of the lunches face every day. “At the end of the day you have to remind yourself that people have it worse than you,” Quinlan said.

“To not take anything for granted. It’s not the end of the world if you lose a basketball game.”

It served as a reminder for every girl just how lucky they are, but knowing how lucky they are wasn’t enough. Every girl saw this moment as a chance to, if only for a few minutes, do something selfless for others.

Last year’s trip to St.Francis Xavier was so meaningful for the girls that seniors Maddie Green and Jessica Phillips, after finishing their SAT’s, raced from school to the kitchen. Though the only duty left was washing dishes the fact that they went out of their way to join their mates showed how seriously every girl took the visit. Meeting and talking with the guests as they weaved in between tables delivering the meals, the girls soon realized they were wearing ear-to-ear smiles also. “I thought would be nice to help people. Make them happy and comfortable here. So I was excited to come here,” said Jenna Romano, a varsity rookie. “It really means a lot to them and I’m happy to be here to serve them.

Head coach Jeff Martin originally scheduled a 90-minute practice for Saturday before the visit but, feeling that his girls worked as hard as they possibly could the night before, decided to give them the day off. It was the perfect call as the girls were able to sleep late. Recharge their batteries and arrive at the kitchen focused solely on the days work and thinking only of helping others.

“We lost that game because of ourselves,” said Rivera. “We fought hard, but they fight hard everyday. It’s a struggle for them daily.”

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