Christian Service at Samaritan Center More Than a Meal for 7th Grader

| January 20, 2011

Ian Quinn collected 156 pounds of vegetables for the Samaritan Center.

By Caroline K. Reff

Ian Quinn doesn’t really like to talk about his volunteer work at the Samaritan Center. It’s not that he isn’t proud of his weekly commitment to the downtown Syracuse soup kitchen, but, at his young age, the 7th grader at Bishop Ludden Junior/Senior High School considers talk of his work to be “bragging.” It’s that very selfless nature that has made Quinn a standout volunteer at the Samaritan Center for the past three years.

Quinn began volunteering at the Samaritan Center in 2007 as a 4th grader at Bishop’s Academy at Holy Family. He and his mom, Gail Page, were looking for a volunteer opportunity they could do together on a regular basis. Page and her husband, Joe Quinn, wanted to expose their son to a more diverse community, as well as find a cause that would welcome a young boy as a volunteer. The Samaritan Center seemed like a good fit.

“I was a little nervous at first,” said Quinn, who spent his first day passing out bread to the hundreds of guests who file through the Samaritan Center kitchen for what is often their only hot meal of the day. “But once I met all the guests and saw how nice they were, I wasn’t nervous anymore. Nobody in our community should go without a meal.”

Three years later, Quinn and his mom can still be found at the Samaritan Center most Monday afternoons serving food, passing out trays, washing dishes and sweeping up. The guests there know Quinn by name and often look out for him, asking about his grades or the sports he’s playing or inquiring about him on the rare occasion that he’s not there.

His dedication to the Samaritan Center goes far beyond his Monday ritual, however, and he is always thinking of ways to bring in donations to help feed those in need. In 5th grade, Quinn asked his principal at Holy Family, Helen Chajka, if he could hold a dress down day to raise money for the center. His classmates and their families responded enthusiastically to Quinn’s request and quickly raised $550.

In 2009, while helping his parents plant a vegetable garden, Quinn had another idea. Why not ask his neighbors to plant an extra row of vegetables in their gardens to donate to the Samaritan Center? He did just that, putting a collection basket outside his front door each Sunday for the neighborhood bounty of tomatoes, peppers and other fresh vegetables.
“It’s a simple thing anybody can do,” said Quinn, whose harvest for the Samaritan Center weighed in
at 156 pounds by the end of the growing season.

Quinn’s next project is a garage sale, planned for the spring, with all proceeds benefitting the Samaritan Center. In fact, he is encouraging others to have garage sales on the same day and donate their proceeds, too. He hopes it can become a yearly event.

“Ian and his family have become treasured members of the Samaritan Center family,” said Mary Beth Frey, executive director of the Samaritan Center. “Ian, in particular, is a role model for all of us — whether volunteering at the soup kitchen, convincing his neighbors to grow vegetables for those in need or simply sitting down to share a conversation with one of our guests, the kindness and compassion he feels toward others shines through. We are all better for having him in our lives.”

Quinn plans to continue volunteering at the Samaritan Center. He hopes he can convince some of his fellow students to do the same. “It’s important that kids volunteer,” he said. “I’d like it if other people did it, too. I know other kids would have a good experience. A little can make a big difference.”

Caroline K. Reff is a free-lance writer and public relations consultant in Syracuse, NY.

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