CANTON - SUNY Canton presented the 2014 Distinguished Citizen Award to a spiritual leader who has enriched the lives of those in the Canton community.
The Rev. Mother Evette Austin of Grace Episcopal Church in Canton was recognized by the College for her leadership in bringing the community together and helping those in need.
Austin began working to raise funds to renovate the Grace Episcopal kitchen in 2011 to begin serving a weekly free meal to those less fortunate. The event provides food for approximately 250 people and has brought volunteers from all corners of the community to help cook and serve the meals, including students from SUNY Canton.
This experience has both rewarded and enriched our students, said Courtney Battista Bish, SUNY Canton dean of students. Many have said that working in the soup kitchen and with Mother Evette has truly changed their lives.
In her role as SUNY Canton campus minister, Austin provides spiritual guidance to students and organizes a Blessing of the Brains event where she, along with other campus ministers, assist students by giving out small gift bags with food and prayer just before final exams. She has also spearheaded a Thanksgiving Service, held each year before Thanksgiving break, for students, faculty and staff.
Mother Evette is one of the most selfless people I know, never tiring of sharing her time and talents with both the SUNY Canton and Village of Canton communities, said Janet E. Livingston, SUNY Canton secretary for the Division of Academic Support Services and Instructional Technologies. She loves the students and loves to interact with them.
After learning about community members need for basic necessities, Austin also created a food pantry and emergency closet for anyone who requires food or supplies.
Mother Evette is truly a giver in every sense of the word and has been a role model to all of us, said Bish. She provides hope to the to the economically and spiritually depressed, and she is certainly a beacon of light at SUNY Canton.
Beyond campus, Austin has promoted the ecumenical community in Canton by holding monthly clergy meetings, supporting an ecumenical summer Bible school and organizing an annual Palm Sunday parade in Canton. She is also a member of the Rotary Club and the village Planning Board.
Austin was born and raised in Barbados. She completed her seminary education at the General Theological Seminary in New York City and previously served as a deacon in Connecticut. She was ordained at Grace Episcopal Church in 2006.