Irondequoit parishioner enjoys volunteering, community ties - Catholic Courier
A man washes dishes.

David Russell washes dishes at the Sisters of St. Joseph Motherhouse in Pittsford April 19. (Courier photo by Jeff Witherow)

Irondequoit parishioner enjoys volunteering, community ties

IRONDEQUOIT — As the 8 a.m. Mass at St. James Church let out April 16, several parishioners stopped to greet David Russell. He not only noted to himself their first and last names as they approached, but also the streets on which they reside.

“I like the people here. They are so nice to me,” he said.

The close bonds between St. James and Russell, 61, stem from his extensive volunteer work over nearly four decades, most notably in the church’s former adult choir. These days, Russell’s powerful baritone voice remains clearly audible from the pews during hymns at St. James.

“I love to sing with the congregation,” he said.

Russell has lent his vocal talents to many public events in the wider community as well. Thanks also to longtime associations with two local agencies — School of the Holy Childhood and Catholic Charities Family and Community Services — he’s a popular figure around town.

“There isn’t anywhere we take him that somebody doesn’t know him,” remarked Jim O’Sullivan, Russell’s cousin and guardian.

O’Sullivan added that Russell’s outgoing personality and strong work ethic have helped him live a happy and productive life, despite having been born with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“He’s an amazing guy,” O’Sullivan stated.

Rochester man described as ‘definitely a go-getter’

Russell was born in Cincinnati, but his family soon moved to the Rochester area, where he has resided ever since. He started attending Holy Childhood at a young age and also goes back many years with CCFCS, which has provided services to him for nearly three decades.

“I love Catholic Charities. They do good service for me,” said Russell, who resides at a CCFCS residence not far from St. James Church.

“David is a super-smart individual, definitely a go-getter,” observed Barbara Rossignolo, CCFCS community support services director, who has worked with Russell for more than 25 years. She lauded his love of singing and “wonderful sense of humor,” as well as his history of volunteering with the agency.

Russell doesn’t drive but enjoys traveling all over town, mainly by bus. He works two days per week at Holy Childhood’s adult vocational program. And, for the past five years, he also has worked two days a week at the Sisters of St. Joseph Motherhouse in Pittsford, where he washes dishes and helps prepare residents’ food.

O’Sullivan said Russell is highly functional in several ways, noting that his cousin calls him every night at exactly 7 p.m. and can quickly recall the phone numbers of people he knew from many years ago.

“It’s unbelievable, the level of detail he possesses,” said O’Sullivan, a parishioner at St. Louis, Pittsford.

For the past 25 years, O’Sullivan has served as guardian for Russell, an only child whose parents are deceased. O’Sullivan noted that Russell’s father, Arthur, was avidly involved in supporting both Catholic Charities and Holy Childhood.

“We’re so grateful David and his family found their way to CCFCS and into our hearts,” Rossignolo said. “We treasure David and his friendship.”

Irondequoit parishioner takes pride in his singing, Catholic faith

In 2019, Russell sang “God Bless America” to kick off Catholic Charities’ Breakfast with Friends fundraising gala, earning an autographed jersey from the keynote speaker, former baseball star Darryl Strawberry. That was one of many community events at which Russell — who honed his skills at Hochstein School of Music — has performed.

He has sung at the start of Rochester Red Wing baseball games and Special Olympics meets, and even performed “The Star-Spangled Banner” to begin a roller derby. He also said he was looking forward to singing “New York, New York” at an upcoming wedding, and has appeared in theatrical productions, with “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” among his favorites.

Russell acknowledged that he gets many compliments for his singing, but he remains humble about his talent. “I’ll just say thank you,” he said.

Like singing, Russell’s Catholic faith plays a big part in his life. He regularly tunes in to rosary broadcasts on the Eternal World Television Network and said it’s important to him to attend Sunday Mass each week at St. James, which is part of Peace of Christ Parish. He said he seeks God’s guidance “so I won’t make mistakes for the rest of the week.”

He also values parish involvement, which has included not only singing in the choir but also participating in coffee hours, men’s club, Knights of Columbus and a Day of Caring clean-up day that took place April 22.

“I just love attending events here at St. James,” he said.

Tags: Profiles in Faith
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