Each year, St. Francis House recognizes the outstanding work of one staff member with the Tim Bulla Spirit of St. Francis Award. The award was created in 2018 in honor of 25 years of service by former St. Francis House Associate Director of Clinical Services, Tim Bulla, who was known for his exceptional compassion and dedicated service throughout every aspect of his work.
Employees nominate a colleague who has, “consistently treated others with respect and dignity, demonstrated intentional acts of compassion, serves with humility and has an unwavering commitment to social justice.”
This year, St. Francis House staff awarded the honor to Fabiana Videla, our incredible Guest Services Manager. Fabi serves the St. Francis House guests with humility. When asked to share a story about a time she was able to help someone through her work, she refused, saying, “I’d rather share a story about a time someone helped me.” Fabi says she believes the good of St. Francis House comes from the whole community, rather than any one person.
Those who nominated Fabi for the award praised her hard work and genuine care for the guests and staff of St. Francis House saying…
“I see her run around the building all day long. Her name is called 10-25 times a day on the radio, and she still smiles. I’m not sure how she does it, but she does. We are blessed to have her as part of the St. Francis House Team.”
“She treats everyone with great respect. She leads with an example. Very thoughtful and caring.”
And, simply, “She’s just the best!”
After she received her well-deserved award, we spoke with Fabi, who reflected on her work and the significance of the acknowledgement.
How long have you worked at St. Francis House?
I started volunteering in the kitchen at St. Francis House in May, 2012. I volunteered for four years or so, about three times a week. I was already convinced I was an employee. I remember telling Seth, “Hey Seth, I’m going to Argentina for a vacation if that’s ok,” and he would say, “Go! You are a volunteer!”
In March 2016, there was an opening for Day Shelter Coordinator on the third floor and I took it. Now, I have been the Guest Services Manager for about a year.
Could you describe your work at St. Francis House?
There are several groups working on my team: the Guest Engagement Liaisons, the clothing program, the Resource Center where guests can access showers, computers, and phones, the Margaret Stewart Lindsay Art Studio where we do art therapy, and the SNAP program, which is the food stamps program. My job is very fast paced, with a lot of problem solving, supervision for the staff, engagement with the guests, and tons of communication with other departments, donors, and volunteers.
What does the Tim Bulla spirit of St. Francis Award mean to you?
It means a lot to me because I was lucky to work very closely to Tim Bulla for several years.
Tim was the most patient, dedicated, and humble individual you could think of. I still find myself remembering him, when confronted with a difficult decision, and asking myself what Tim would do.
What motivates you to go above and beyond in your work?
St. Francis House as a community.
I found here not just a job that I love, but also a group of people that are my friends and my family away from my friends and family in Argentina.
I feel at home here. That’s why I try to do my best every day, like I would at home.
Do you have a story you might be able to share about the time you were able to help someone in your work?
I’d rather share a story about a time when someone helped me.
I was by myself at my desk on the third floor with several people waiting in there. That area was always full of people waiting to be seen for appointments with case managers and clinicians.
There was a very agitated guest in the waiting area who started coming towards me, and another guest named Brian was also waiting. Brian was always quiet, but he stood right up and said “Are you okay? Do you need anything?” and helped calm the other guest down.
Brian gave me a hug and went back to his chair to wait for his appointment.
I think of it, and I get emotional.
When he did that for me, I realized that I was part of a strong community, and he was helping me without being asked to. That is very meaningful to me. It should not always be about what we do for others, but also about recognizing what others do for us, and how we depend on others. Both matter and are the essence of the social fabric.
Brian and I still hug when we see each other around.
What kind of impact do you hope to have for the guests and the staff at St. Francis House and beyond?
I believe in in the small gestures, in the little things that are done persistently: smiling back or lending an ear for listening, putting extra food on the plate, taking a minute to bring one more option to the clothing counter, showing up every day to work, saying good morning early when everybody’s still waiting outside.
With these things that we can all easily do, we may not change the course of someone’s life 180 degrees, but I am convinced that if we can improve someone’s day by only one degree, we have already changed the direction in a significant way. Maybe a simple kind answer from staff this morning will mean that a guest will decide to take a shower and go to detox later that day.
I believe in those little, meaningful things.