Boston Marathon

Boston Marathon

We are honored to be a part of the historic Boston Marathon®. Thanks to John Hancock’s Marathon Non-Profit Program, each year we fundraise with a team of incredible individuals who run in support of our organization, holding events to support their progress along the way.

We are grateful for our dedicated runners, who we collaborate with through social media and event promotions to meet a $10,000 fundraising goal per person.

Meet our 2022 Boston Marathon Runners

Lindsay Belair

Lindsay, born and raised in Lenox, Mass, has had a passion for running since she was seven years old. After running on her high school Cross Country and Track team for six years, Lindsay took her love for running to Boston, where she studied Public Relations and Marketing at Suffolk University. A recent graduate of Suffolk, Lindsay now works as a Marketing Associate at Verte Agency. In a class her freshman year, Lindsay was asked to write down a few long-term goals, one of which she wrote: “To run the Boston Marathon.” Coupled with her love for running, she also aims to help those in need. Hundreds of miles and $10,000 later, Lindsay has accomplished one of her dreams, and is so grateful to have had the support of St. Francis House along the way.

Click here to support Lindsay!

Marlene O’Donnell

Marlene first started seriously running as a participant in an exercise/nutrition study at BU. As a member of the running club Heartbreak Hill Striders, she has enjoyed the new friendships she’s created while running. Running has taught Marlene that if she makes a plan and has options, she can reach her goal. While running, she tries to listen to her breath, her feet hitting the ground and observes the meditative movements. She focuses on thing at a time, one mile at a time.

This marathon is important to Marlene because she is hoping to make a difference and help the Boston community. If she could offer encouragement to the men and women who come to St. Francis House, she would tell them that everyone has challenges and obstacles, yes, but believe every day is a gift.

Click here to support Marlene!

Tolu Oke

Born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria, Tolu moved to the US to study Physics and Mechanical Engineering. After college, she worked in Boston at an office located on Boylston Street, which provided her a front row view to the euphoric last stretch of the Boston Marathon. Despite not being a runner up until this point, the sight of the finish line inspired Tolu to take up the sport herself. Later that year, she went on her first run of 0.73 miles before working her way up to 5k’s, 10k’s, triathlons, half-marathons, and marathons, with the ultimate goal of running in Boston. Tolu is a former St. Francis House volunteer who is combining her passion for running and her passion for service by running on behalf of St. Francis House. Other than running, Tolu’s hobbies include walking, biking, hiking, traveling and reading. In anticipation for the big run, she says she is “Thankful to God for the ability to move, for nature, and for the great joy He gives me through these and other activities.”

Click here to support Tolu!

Holidays at SFH

Our annual Holiday Gift Drive provides gifts to St. Francis House by matching guests with individual supporters. This allows them to receive personalized gifts and gives our supporters a chance to connect with our guests on a more individual level.


Please email for more information.

Warm Winter Clothing

Every day our team distributes emergency clothing, such as long underwear, jackets, and thick socks, to ensure our guests can manage the cold, wet New England winter.

Our Amazon Wish list has a wide range of items for our guests to ensure a warm winter season.

State of the Agency

Throughout the year, we host virtual State of the Agency Addresses. For these online events, President and CEO Karen LaFrazia addresses a currently developing program or service. Often, the address features a conversation with another member of the staff who is involved in the developing project. The State of the Agency Address helps our supporters to stay up to date on what St. Francis House is doing to advance out mission in relation to current events and issues.

Watch our March 2022 State of the Agency Address

President and CEO Karen LaFrazia and Vice President of Program Strategy and Initiatives Andrea Farina discuss St. Francis House’s response to Mass and Cass, women’s issues, harm reduction as a form of treatment, and how all of this comes together in our new Willows at Woods facility.\u0026t=299s

Winter Walk

We are proud to be one of several amazing and impactful organizations chosen as a beneficiary for the annual Winter Walk.

The Winter Walk raises awareness and important financial support for Boston-based organizations working to end homelessness. St. Francis House is pleased to be a partner and benefit from the dollars raised. Each year, participants gather in Copley Square to complete a two-mile walk followed by breakfast, music and speeches.

Each organization raises money for their cause with the opportunity to earn a match from Winter Walk if they reach their goal of $10,000. The event is a great opportunity for members of the Young Professionals’ Society and other individual supporters to raise funds for St. Francis House.

Stay tuned for more information on the 2023 Winter Walk.


A Closer Look: Rapid Re-Housing

Here at St. Francis House our rapid re-housing team works directly with our guests to assist them in securing stable housing. The program is unique in that we are able to provide upfront move-in costs and sustained financial assistance to guests who are experiencing homelessness. This is possible through our partnership with the City of Boston.

For many members of the population we serve, finding affordable housing on their own can be nearly impossible due to the soaring rate of rental costs and limited availability of marketing rate apartments. Once a residence is identified, often through the work of our dedicated housing navigator staff, guests receive financial assistance to cover their first and last months’ rent, security deposit and an $800 monthly stipend over the course of 12 months to support their rent and living costs.

In addition to this support, guests can access our income maximization program as well as our stabilization support services that focus on building support systems in the community, connecting to medical and behavioral care and accessing other necessary resources. Many of the individuals we place into housing are experiencing having a place of their own for the first time in years; the lifestyle adjustment of this proves to be challenging for many. Our team works to identify these barriers and better support individuals as they begin to heal from trauma and adjust to things like having a landlord, sharing common spaces with roommates, or maintaining a job.

Looking ahead to the future of this program, our Associate Director of Housing & Stabilization states, “I hope to see continued funding to support the homeless, sheltered and unsheltered population we serve become housed and stay housed with the support of our stabilizations case managers. There are many complex challenges for achieving this, but it is a possible reality that we continue to work towards.”

The staff of St. Francis House believes that everyone has the right to decent housing and that secure housing is essential to maintaining good mental health, sobriety, and self-sufficiency. The innovative strategies implemented through our rapid re-housing program enables us to assist all of our homeless guests, regardless of their circumstances, so that they have a stable base from which to rebuild their lives.

Meet Nikki Funches, our September Staff Spotlight

How long have you been with St. Francis House? What do you do here?

I’ve been at St. Francis House for a year permanently and a year as temporary staff, so all together it’s been around 2 years now. I’m a program assistant on the 4th floor for workforce development. My job is to provide triage and help clients figure out where they want to go – whether or not it’s the MAP program, or if they need an employment specialist, some may need help getting their benefits back, it just depends. So my job is really to try and help the clients figure it out.

What part of your job do you enjoy most?

Every day brings its own set of opportunities and challenges. I think what I enjoy most about my job is that a lot of clients come in unsure of what they can do and what they are capable of, so it gives you the opportunity to speak life into them and to encourage them not to give up. I enjoy being able to listen to people and provide them with a plan for their life and help build up their confidence. Sometimes the client knows what they want to do, they just need to hear it out loud and hear it’s not a bad plan. And part of our job is to help them see that they can do it, they can move forward and put the past behind them. It’s a battle, but they can win.

Is there anything you wish people knew about your role or department?

I think anytime you work in an environment where you’re the first person people come in contact with, what’s most important is that each client is treated with respect regardless of what they’re telling you or what condition they may walk in with. We all live with some type of conflict and we all have the ability to go against our nature and just experience the poor condition we’re in. But when you’re the first point person who people come in contact with, you want to make sure that you set the tone for them to have a good experience. If someone goes into an establishment and they have a hard time, they generally tell around 10-15 people about the horrible experience they had. But if you leave them with a good experience, it opens the door for more clientele, and it also lets people know that they’re more than just a face, that we listen to their story and we pay attention to that. What I want more than anything is for everyone to understand that if you’re someone’s first point of contact, how you treat that person is going to affect the way that they interact with your coworkers, the information they receive and whether or not they think they can do it again the next day. All that matters.

Is there anything about your job that you find challenging and how do you work through it?

It’s challenging to see people suffer, because a lot of people are having a hard time when they come in. But I think that it also keeps you from being selfish when you see someone who is having a humbling moment in life. It keeps you from focusing on yourself, and you start to see that other people’s problems are way bigger than the ones that you have. I think if you work in human services, you have to decide whether or not you are there just for human services or if you are there to service the humans. What part of them do you want to help build up? A lot of times we are a gateway to their entire future. So you have to remove your feelings from the situation and think about what’s going on with that other person. You have to look at them for their nature, not the condition that they came in with, but who they could have been. A lot of clients are really smart if you sit down and talk to them and listen to them, they’ve just had a bad break or something came up that threw them off a little bit. So you have this awesome opportunity to help them. And it changes you, it changes the way that you see yourself. We all have the opportunity to fall and we all have the opportunity to get back up.

Sharing the Comfort of Music with the Guests of St. Francis House

As a former attorney who switched careers to pursue her creative passions, Antonia Nedder is a big believer in the power of music. “Music is what I do, and what I love,” she says. “It can be incredibly healing, and I thought that it might be something that the men and women who come through the doors at St. Francis House would enjoy.”

In March 2011, she began running a music program here in our Resource Center. Every Thursday, just after lunch, Antonia began gathering with our guests to share in the pleasure of song and music. At this hour-long drop-in singalong, they cover everything from Frank Sinatra to Pink Floyd. For those who want to make a more serious commitment to music, Antonia started a choir that presents a monthly concert for fellow guests and staff.

“The talent here at St. Francis House is so amazing,” Antonia says. “I can’t tell you how many wonderfully talented people I’ve met. Some people just breeze in and begin playing the piano or the guitar. Others are great singers, and just want to belt out a song. Some people have never sung before, but after a short while, they are soloing. And some people just want to sit there and listen.”

Starting out, the music room was equipped with an old, out of tune piano. In need of an upgrade, she successfully applied to Boston’s legendary piano merchant, M. Steinert & Sons for a beautiful new electric piano. Over time, she added tambourines and percussion instruments to the mix, and tuned up an old guitar.

Antonia brought in her own ideas and sheet music – she is a pianist and singer who performed with the Tanglewood Festival Choir for eight years – and responded to the song requests of our guests. The group covers a wide range of old favorites: Beatles, Motown, Broadway, classic pop, current pop. Favorite songs include “Stand by Me,” “Lean on Me,” and “Hey Jude.”

“For one hour, it’s sheer joy, coming together and creating something together. I truly believe that the language of music unites everyone,” says Antonia.

Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus pandemic a temporary halt to the music program was required. Nevertheless, just a week after in-person volunteering was suspended – she began a weekly virtual music performance posted to Facebook and dedicated to St. Francis House. From then until late June of 2021, Antonia played and sang a favorite song of the guests each week.

Her audience included St. Francis House guests, staff, and friends and family. Each week she reached hundreds of people with her music, all while spreading the word about our mission. On the tenth anniversary of the Music Day program, she performed Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend” – and raised over $2,500 for St. Francis House.

While necessary pandemic precautions are still in place, Antonia has been back in person at St. Francis House since mid-August. The drop-in program is fully up and running and she is hopeful the choir program will be able to resume in the current months. “When it was announced that Antonia was coming back to restart the music initiative at St. Francis House, I was both; excited and nervous about how it would play out. While watching Antonia playing the piano as she and the St. Francis House guests were singing, I was overcome with emotions by the guests’ enthusiasm and participation. Antonia’s passion for both music and our guests was overwhelming,” stated Jason Ercolano, our Associate Director of Day Shelter Services.

In addition to the joy of seeing old friends, Antonia discovered upon her return that David McGrath, a Trustee of The Highland Street Foundation, donated a baby-grand piano to the program, currently used to lead her in person sing-alongs.

“It’s pure joy to be back,” she says.

Watch a Short Video from one of Antonia’s Latest Sessions

Sheila Zarba-Campbell Reflects on the Reward & Recovery Found in her Work

In a special guest blog post, our Campaign Director Sheila Zarba-Campbell writes about her experience losing her husband in the terrorist attack of 9/11 and how she is able to find comfort through her work at St. Francis House.

One of the ironies of life is that our greatest happiness may come from loving and caring for other people.  In other words, generosity can be selfish.

I’ve made a study of happiness ever since my first husband, Christopher R. Zarba, Jr., was killed in the terrorist attack of 9/11/01 as a passenger on American Airlines Flight 11. I was suddenly widowed at age 35, parenting a three year-old son by myself.  I could never have predicted how deeply painful and debilitating it would be to lose my husband, especially under such shocking and violent circumstances.  But I was fortunate to have the support of a close and loving family and many friends who looked out for me as I healed from my traumatic loss.

Since 2019, I’ve also been fortunate to have the opportunity to represent St. Francis House to its many loyal supporters as a member of the development staff. It is a privilege to work with our donors: helping them make gifts, showing our appreciation, and letting them know how their gifts allow the agency fulfill its mission. It is also an honor to interact with our guests, whether by serving lunch, attending choir concerts, or just talking with them in the lobby. For all the hardship I endured in 2001, I know that many of our guests have survived much worse, and I admire their resilience.

People experiencing poverty and homelessness often find themselves at the lowest possible point in their lives. But my colleagues at St. Francis House welcome our guests each day and treat them with the kindness and dignity they usually, sadly, do not receive outside our doors. The expertise of our staff in defusing conflict, rendering first aid, supporting our guests through mental health challenges, and accompanying them on their journey out of homelessness is awe-inspiring. Our guests’ bravery, combined with our staff’s compassion and professionalism, combine to make St. Francis House, for me, a magical and sacred space. Just being here is, as I mentioned to a family member who was struggling with sadness brought on by the ongoing pandemic, “good for the soul.”

I cannot think of a more rewarding experience than working at St. Francis House, and I’m deeply grateful for the opportunity to – selfishly! — contribute what I can to fulfill its mission.