Meet Emmaus Volunteers and Donors

Meet Debbie Shoup

Debbie Shoup prepared to check in guests at the pantry.

“I try to remember all the names of the individuals who come through my line at the pantry,” says Debbie Shoup, who volunteers both at Emmaus’ pantry and soup kitchen. “I can’t tell you the warmth of the smile they get on their face when I remember their name without looking at their identification card.”

At the pantry, Debbie sits behind a desk checking guests in each Monday and Tuesday. She works with people from last names beginning with the letters A-G. There are about 300 active individuals in her group of guests.

Meet Mary Anne Geary

Volunteer Mary Anne Geary

“My hairdresser and friend of fifty years, Kathe Wilson, had often told me about how much she enjoys volunteering at the soup kitchen,” explained Mary Anne Geary. “So when she asked me to step in for a volunteer who was getting older and struggling to come in each week, I said yes.” That was three years ago. And after that first year of substituting, Mary Anne became a regular volunteer on the serving line at the kitchen.

This is where Christ eats

Mary Jaskowak Emmaus volunteer

Walking into Emmaus Soup Kitchen can be a life-changing experience – for the volunteers, that is, says Greg Baker.

Greg is director of campus ministry at Mercyhurst University, whose students and staffers have been volunteering at Emmaus for 25 years.

“So often we see that what students understand as service changes during the years,” says Greg, 39, who views service work and ministry as “wrapped together.” He met his wife, Jennifer, at Gannon University. After they graduated and married, they joined the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in Kansas. He worked at an alternative high school; Jennifer volunteered at an inner-city elementary school...

Flowers power generosity

Carl Larese, Emmaus donor

Carl Larese knows the value of mentors and the beauty of paying it forward, and both have influenced his support of Emmaus Ministries.

The owner of Larese Floral Design, 3857 Peach Street, Carl, 58, found his calling professionally at age 17 when he worked at the former Bachelor Button flower shop at West 10th and Cherry streets. He rode his bike there from his family’s home on West 21st Street.

“I started as driver, delivering flowers, cleaning up,” says Carl. But Bobby Wurst, owner of Bachelor Button, told Carl, “You’d be more valuable to me in the store than out in the truck,” he recalls...

Betty Amatangelo

Betty Amatangelo cuddles her three-month-old grandson, Henry, while Henry's twin, Josie, sleeps on the swing.

When Betty Amatangelo was dismissed from her job at Mercyhurst University in a cost-cutting move in November 2014, the lost income hit her family's budget and also took an emotional toll.

But Betty and her husband, Tony, never considered reducing or dropping their gifts to Emmaus Ministries. They remain committed to tithing – giving back 10 percent of their income – because they know their donations make a difference. They also know what it's like to struggle with problems similar to those facing guests at Emmaus.

“We both fought addictions and alcoholism and are blessed with...

Why I Don’t Like Working at Soup Kitchens

Breanna Mekuly, Emmaus Ministries volunteer

Last week I served at the Emmaus Soup Kitchen in Erie, PA. The next day, Sr. Mary who runs the kitchen asked me how my experience was. I hesitated before telling her the truth; I didn’t like it and actually, I don’t like soup kitchens in general.

All I did was serve fruit on the line this time. In the midst of asking guests if they would like what I’m serving and then scooping canned fruit onto plates with as much dignity as possible, I overheard quite a few conversations.

For example, one woman begged a server to help her carry her plate. She had just suffered a miscarriage, she said, and by the looks of her, it...

Beth Sammartino views Benedictines as extension of family

Beth Sammartino Emmaus Ministries Donor

By Liz Allen
“When you have landed on Benedictine soil,” you remain grounded in the charitable work of the sisters and their ministries.

That is one image that Beth Sammartino draws upon to explain why she gives back to the Benedictines by supporting Emmaus Ministries.

In particular, Beth likes to help out Sister Rosanne Lindal-Hynes, who works as the women’s advocate at Emmaus.

“She is so caring in such a dignified way with the poorest of the poor,” Beth says. Sister Rosanne likes to...

Patti Holland and family have deep roots at Emmaus

Patti Holland Emmaus Ministries Volunteer

By Liz Allen
When members of the Holland family help Emmaus Ministries, they go the distance – from Erie all the way to Pittsburgh.

Patti Holland traces her family’s connection to Emmaus back to the days when her mother-in-law, the late Mary Holland, a school nurse, met Sister Mary Miller, who was the principal of St. Andrew School.

When Sister Mary became the director of Emmaus Soup Kitchen in the 1980s, Patti started to volunteer at the soup kitchen on Christmas Eve so that her husband, Dave, could carry on the family tradition of taking their four sons, David, Andrew, Tim and...

Nick Pongratz continues to give back

Nick Pongratz continues to give back

Nick Pongratz, 23, began volunteering at Emmaus Soup Kitchen when he was a McDowell High School student.

His parents, Kathleen and Jeff Pongratz, were already helping out at the soup kitchen, 218 E. 11th Street, which, like their parish, St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, is on Erie’s east side.

Nick needed community service hours for school, so his mother asked if he would be interested in working at the soup kitchen once a month.

Nick enjoyed his volunteer service so much that seven years later, he’s still at the soup kitchen on the last...

Hank and Betty Graygo promise to keep paying it forward

Betty and Hank Graygo

After Jill Graygo’s wedding reception last October, her parents, Hank and Betty Graygo, were helping the newlyweds to clean up when Jill asked them a question.

“Do you still give to the soup kitchen?” Jill asked. “Yes,” her parents replied. That’s when Jill suggested that food left over from the wedding – in sealed containers, still in the refrigerator or the freezer – be donated to Emmaus Soup Kitchen.

Jill’s suggestion sparked an additional idea from Betty. Why not donate the Mason jars filled with beautiful bouquets from Wegmans to the soup...