From the Boston Herald: Boston’s St. Francis House celebrates Christmas, serves hundreds of festive feasts
Boston’s St. Francis House celebrates Christmas, serves hundreds of festive feasts
By Lance Reynolds from the Boston Herald
Published: December 25, 2023
In the back corner of a decorated dining room at St. Francis House, Jerrod Masucci sat down at a table with a plate full of food alongside his girlfriend and several other friends.
As Christmas songs played, with roughly 30 volunteers serving plates of stuffed chicken breast, butternut squash, mashed potatoes and string beans, Masucci said he felt like he was celebrating the holiday at home with a bunch of friends he views as family.
But at the same time, life has had its ups and downs for the 35-year-old homeless man who is seeking permanent housing.
Monday marked Masucci’s first Christmas spent at Boston’s largest day shelter in the past three years. Around 350 men and women experiencing hardship and homelessness joined him for the festive feast.
“When I came back here, it was like my family just grew,” Masucci told the Herald. “I feel at home, but I feel in a place where I need to gain (a) home. You know how they say, ‘Home is where the heart is.’ It is but at the same time, physically having a home is a great thing. It’s a blessing from God.”
Masucci’s girlfriend, Kelly Devino, 47, has been coming to St. Francis House every day since September. Here, she receives food, clothes, a place to shower and assistance in finding permanent housing, among other services.
This Christmas, Devino didn’t have the opportunity to spend the holiday with friends and family, but she said she still found a sense of joy.
“Being here for Christmas is just a blessing,” she said, smiling.
Those who are more fortunate take pride in spending the holiday giving back to the community by volunteering. So is the case for Greg Gailius, a Southie native who graduated from Boston College and worked nearly 40 years in the city’s business community before retiring.
Gailius came out to St. Francis House with his wife and daughter, a tradition they’ve shared together for years.
“I have been fortunate in life,” he said. “It just feels good to give back because Christmas is about giving. I am much better at giving than receiving.”
Karen LaFrazia, the shelter’s president and CEO, said she wouldn’t want to spend the holiday anywhere else. She bounced back and forth between the kitchen and dining room, seeing people she’s seen year after year while building connections with those she’s never met before.
It has been a challenging year at St. Francis House, LaFrazia said, as the shelter is serving the largest number of people per day than ever before, around 600 individuals. But like Masucci, she said she looks at each and every person needing assistance as family.
“It is our love for the guests,” LaFrazia said. “This is a lonely time of the year for many people. For us to be able to make the day special for somebody, and to just be in fellowship with them in a moment when they are at their lowest point, it is a blessing.”
Despite the tight housing market, Masucci said he’s entering the new year hopeful that he will secure a permanent living space at some point in 2024.
“Sometimes it takes patience,” he said, “and it takes a while, but that patience will help you endure that long time of waiting. I never have a doubting bone in my body. I have always kept it positive. I never think negatively because once you think negatively you could destroy all plans that are ahead of you.”
Original article in the Boston Herald: Boston’s St. Francis House celebrates Christmas, serves hundreds of festive feasts (bostonherald.com)