Service is core to Cris Marchiori – service to his country and service to those in need. A first-generation Italian American, Cris decided to give back to his country by joining the armed forces.

“I am blessed to have been born here in the U.S.,” he said. “My parents came here from Italy, and they knew what it was like to have nothing.”

from left to right: Harry Wacke, Cris Marchiori, Tony Ferrante and Mike Thewes of Knights of Columbus Council #14099, and Tony’s wife Anne Marie.

He enlisted in the Air Force, becoming a security policeman assigned in North Dakota, and was later accepted into the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. Cris was recently promoted to the rank of colonel.

After several overseas deployments – including one to Afghanistan – the Chicago native returned to the U.S. in 2011, settling in Maryland and working at Fort Meade. Around that time he joined the Knights of Columbus at his parish, Resurrection of Our Lord, in Laurel. “I wanted to do something with the community,” he said.

In 2013, Cris took the lead in seeking out new service opportunities for members of his Knights of Columbus council after hearing their pastor, Fr. Mark Bialek, talk about the importance of outreach to those in need. Because he worked at Fort Meade, Cris was already somewhat familiar with Sarah’s House, a supportive housing program that offers a number of crucial services to homeless families in Anne Arundel County. He also explored volunteer opportunities at Our Daily Bread Employment Center. His Knights of Columbus council ended up signing on to volunteer at both programs.

Although he has been a long-time supporter of Catholic Charities, he didn’t know that Sarah’s House was a Catholic Charities program until he visited there for the first time. “It might have been divine intervention” that led him there, he said with a smile.
These days, members of his K of C group serve dinner on the fourth Wednesday of each month to the families living at Sarah’s House and lunch at Our Daily Bread on the second Saturday. “Those days are highlights in my month,” he said.

At Sarah’s House, the fourth Wednesday of the month means shake-and-bake chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans and pudding – or watermelon, if it’s in season. More important than the food, however, is the fellowship that Cris and the other members of the group share with people living at Sarah’s House.

“I love talking to the kids. Here are children whose parents are trying to rebuild,” he said. “It brings a smile to my heart. There’s this one family – a father, mother and several children – they’ve been at Sarah’s House for a while. The father is a Dallas Cowboys fan, and I love to razz him about that.”

The gratitude from the Sarah’s House residents and staff alike has made a big impression on Cris and he notes how appreciative people are for both the meal and the camaraderie. “It’s great knowing you’re helping make a difference in someone’s life.”

“Cris has been a great volunteer ambassador to Sarah’s House. He introduced his Knights of Columbus group to the opportunity for monthly dinner service at our program,” said Bruce Clopein, the volunteer resource manager at Sarah’s House. “Volunteer groups like the Knights are instrumental with the nutritious meals they provide to our guests, and also because they allow Sarah’s House to operate with a limited food budget. In particular, Cris’ spirit of service and commitment to those in need serves as an inspiration to us all.”

In late January, Cris’ military career brought him to a new assignment in Germany, and he now resides in Stuttgart. The volunteer groups he helped bring to Sarah’s House and Our Daily Bread will continue to serve, however, even though he’s now 4,000 miles away.

During his time in Germany, Cris plans to do volunteer work with migrants and refugees who have been displaced from Syria, Iraq and other countries. As the son of immigrants, it is an issue that clearly resonates with him. While serving in Afghanistan several years ago, he spent time helping Afghani interpreters obtain special immigrant visas so they could escape the violence in their homeland.

“There are millions of refugees from the Middle East who are destitute, and I look forward to doing what I can to serve,” he said. “They’re escaping death and destruction, and from their own governments no less. It’s heartbreaking.”

“There are people who are less fortunate than you,” he added. “We’re put on this earth to do something.”