For Vito Vitelli, the scene before him perfectly captured the Great Commandment: Love God with all your heart, soul and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.
On Sept. 9, as Vitelli looked out on the Ormond Street neighborhood surrounding the House of Mercy, a Rochester homeless shelter, he saw hundreds of people in the surrounding economically challenged neighborhood. They were dining on a late summer picnic feast prepared by the Knights of Columbus Council 15471 of St. Joseph Church in Penfield. There were hots and hamburgers, beverages, salads and desserts – all provided and served at no charge.
Vitelli, past grand knight, was chief organizer and chairman of the event, dubbed the Sharing God’s Love Picnic. More than two dozen of his brother Knights and members of the council’s ladies’ auxiliary cooked and served with the help of the House of Mercy staff.
“We fed more than 450 people and we brought together suburban people and people in a city neighborhood,” Vitelli said. “People of all walks of life and backgrounds were mingling and having a good time. It was just wonderful to behold. The Holy Spirit was there, and if the Holy Spirit was visible, I think you would have seen a big smile on his face.”
St. Joseph’s Council 15471 has made outreach to the House of Mercy a special emphasis. This past June, the Knights “adopted” two of the new beds for the homeless at the House of Mercy. A $2,000 check was presented to Sister Grace Miller, the House of Mercy’s director. In the last five years, the council has made more than 50 deliveries to the House of Mercy with an estimated $21,000 in clothing, food and personal hygiene items.
“This is what Knights of Columbus do,” Vitelli said. “It is our mission to help people, especially the poor. It is our motto: ‘In Service to All,’ and we try to live it. And it feels so good when we do it well.”