How a Bologna Sandwich Became a Labor of Love

They have arrived in the foyer like clockwork for as long as anyone can remember: every day at 2:45 p.m. (1:45 on Wednesdays when we close early), several hundred bologna and cheese sandwiches are delivered from the kitchen in a giant Tupperware tub. They’re packed individually in brown paper lunch bags, with a packet of mustard on the side. The tub is placed on the table next to the X-ray machine and security staff hand them out to guests as they exit St. Francis House for the day. Even after closing time, if a hungry guest knocks on the door, he or she is greeted with one of those famous bologna sandwiches.

So where do these midday snacks, intended to stave off hunger before dinner is served at overnight shelters, come from? This story begins in the early days of St. Francis House, when a man named John Shalbey learned about the shelter through founder Father Louis Canino, according to John’s widow Dianne. John decided he could make a small difference by making and delivering bologna sandwiches to St. Francis House. Little did he know what a beloved tradition these sandwiches would become.
“John was a very benevolent type and giving back was dear to his heart,” says Dianne. Rojo Corp, the Shalbeys’ gas station/carwash business, has always made charitable giving a priority. In the beginning, John was completely hands-on—literally, making the sandwiches with several women from his church and with Dianne at one point as well. But as the Shalbeys’ Norwood business grew, John no longer had time for sandwich-making, so a Rojo employee would simply deliver the ingredients each week, while St. Francis House volunteers would make the sandwiches. Even after John’s death in 2008, the tradition has continued and every Wednesday, like clockwork, the weekly supply arrives—60 lbs. of bologna and 10 lbs. of American cheese.