Brian Egan, 29, recalls the first time he visited St. Francis House. A middle school teacher had assigned students an essay about an issue they felt passionate about. As the son of board member Tim Egan (now the board chair), homelessness was Brian’s natural choice.
“One of the guests I interviewed had been an engineer in India but he wasn’t able to apply his degree here,” says Brian. “He was also a very talented artist and I remember thinking that the guests were people like you or me. They had talents and were just down on their luck.”
Over the years, Brian, an underwriter for a real estate finance company, has become increasingly involved in St. Francis House. Today, he is a member of the Emerging Leaders of St. Francis House, a group of young professionals who support the organization through advocacy, networking and fun—including the annual Shooze Cruise, which Brian attended this year with his sister Caroline and eight of their friends.
Brian is part of a growing number of second-generation St. Francis House supporters, who were raised watching— and often participating in—the good works of their mothers and fathers. Nature or nurture? A little bit of both?
Tim says that around his children, he has always been low-key about his work with St. Francis House. And while he suggested to Brian that he might consider getting involved with the Emerging Leaders group, he never pushed. He attributes Brian’s involvement in part to the social justice bent of both men’s alma mater, Holy Cross, and mostly to Brian’s nature.
Director of Development Maggie Burns says that overt or not, the message parents send through their own involvement with charitable organizations is loud and clear. “They’re telling their kids that they believe in this organization and that it’s worth their time,” she says.
Board member Linn Torto admits to being a bit more deliberate about inculcating in her son Nate the value of St. Francis House’s work. Before Nate’s sixth birthday, which falls around Christmas, she floated the idea of forgoing presents from friends, and instead asking them to bring to his party new athletic socks for St. Francis House guests. “He was reluctant, but said ‘ok,’” recalls Linn. “We helped out with Christmas dinner and then he handed out athletic socks, wearing his little Santa hat. The staff later told us that some of the guys were really touched that he was there. It made them think of their own kids.”
The sock tradition continued for the next six or so years, until Nate outgrew birthday parties. Through middle and high school, he regularly volunteered at St. Francis House, helping with Christmas meals and the Fresh Threads clothing program. The Torto family always buys a table at the All the Way Home gala and invites extended family members. Nate hopes to volunteer at St. Francis House this Christmas when he’s on break from New York University.
“I get a redeeming feeling helping people who are less fortunate,” explains Nate, 19. He also views his volunteer work as a way to spend time with his mother. “She’s really passionate about St. Francis House and she’s so happy when I volunteer with her.”