By: Amy Cavalier, Communications/Development Coordinator
Award-winning international band Taylor Made Jazz recently performed a surprise concert to honor volunteer Marlene K., a resident of DePaul’s Seneca Square Single Room Occupancy program in Buffalo, New York.
Whatever the task, she just loves to help!
“My family was not rich, but we owned clothing stores in Buffalo,” she said. “It makes me very sad to see people going without. I can’t deal with sad things so I have to be a part of helping out somehow.”
A Buffalo native, Marlene worked for many years starting with a job at a downtown jazz room where she worked her way up to manager. She was also a teacher’s aide at Father Bell Community Center, and later joined the city’s Parking Violations Bureau. Eventually, she returned to the food and beverage industry working in a Russian restaurant on Elmwood Avenue.
In her 50s, Marlene’s focus shifted from working to volunteering.
“It took up all of my time,” she said. “It was wonderful.”
Marlene has volunteered with the Niagara Frontier Radio Reading Service, St. Ann’s Church, the Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo General Hospital and more. She’s also volunteered at the Harvest House of South Buffalo, a former church and school building that now hosts spiritual retreats and community meetings.
Reading to the blind was one of her favorite activities. “It gave me comfort that someone could see through me,” she said.
Serenading a Long-Time Volunteer
Van Taylor, owner of Taylor Made Jazz, met Marlene through the volunteer circuit. The Buffalo-based musical group performs domestically for schools and at festivals, as well as internationally for United States troops serving on the front line.
“I’d run into her often in the inner city where she’d be doing her outreach and she would often come out and support us when we played locally,” said Van Taylor.
Marlene became a resident of Seneca Square when she began experiencing mental health issues seven years ago. Her days of volunteering ended last year and she and Van Taylor lost touch.
Recently, they reconnected and Marlene suggested Taylor Made Jazz perform a show at Seneca Square. Van Taylor decided this was a perfect opportunity to recognize Marlene for her volunteer work.
“As you go through life, you meet nice people who do nice things for other people all of the time, and a lot of times these people wonder, ‘Is there more to this?’ and ‘Do people actually care?'” said Taylor. It’s nice to let a person know, you are important, you are special and you have made a difference. It’s really simple.”
Working with Seneca Square Director Sue Rosky, Van Taylor assembled a group of musicians and invited Marlene’s friends and family to a surprise performance.
“The concert was a huge success and Marlene was definitely pleased,” said Rosky. “All of the staff and residents enjoyed the music and Van Taylor put a great deal of effort and planning into making this a very special evening for a very special person. It was an absolute joy to be able to celebrate all of Marlene’s accomplishments.”