There’s no getting around the fact that, on a holiday that’s all about sitting around the table with family and friends, things can be rough for those who don’t have a table of their own. It’s heartbreaking thinking of those who may not have family and friends to enjoy the day with.
Which is why we always strive to make holidays special for our guests, and we’re able to do that because of the dedication of our volunteers and staff.
One of our favorite days of the year here at St. Francis House is Thanksgiving. The dining room is festively decorated. The meal is a bit more elaborate than our usual fare, with the addition of pie for dessert. Our guests are served at their tables by dozens of volunteers, who come back every year to make the day so special.
This year marks the 25th Thanksgiving that Jason Ercolano (pictured right), our Associate Director of Day Services, has been working for organizations dedicated to helping those experiencing homelessness.
“I love Thanksgiving in the homeless community,” Jason told us. “It’s a day when our people get doted on. A day when they’re made to feel that they’re very important. It’s their day.”
While we’ll still be doting on our guests, things will look a bit different due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Our guests will be dining off real china, but we’ll have to substitute plastic cutlery instead of the real thing. Fancy, paper placemats are replacing tablecloths. The tables now have plexiglass dividers. We won’t be able to serve our guests at their tables, instead opting for our usual set-up where individuals retrieve their meals from volunteers behind the kitchen counter. Dinner will be served with the option of a plated meal or a to-go container to eat the festive meal offsite, or in another area of the building.
But the meal – turkey and all the fixings – will be delicious, thanks to chef Seth and our devoted kitchen staff. The dining room, thanks to Judy, Manager of Guest Services, will be festively decorated – as will the Atrium, the Resource Center, the Women’s Center, and the other spots throughout St. Francis House where our guests can sit down and enjoy their meal. Many other staff members will cancel their day off and time with friends and family to make sure our guests are well taken care of.
“We’ll certainly miss our volunteers, and our guests will, too,” says Jason. “But we’re going to make sure that our guests are given a warm St. Francis House welcome, and have a very happy holiday.”
This Thanksgiving, just like last, Jason will be opening the doors at 4:30 a.m. for the cooking to begin. This year there will be 48 roasted turkeys, 20 gallons of gravy, 120 pounds of buttery mashed potatoes, 75 pounds of stuffing, 100 pounds of sautéed green beans, 12 gallons of cranberry sauce, and 700 freshly baked rolls! In addition, guests will have a choice between pecan, pumpkin, or apple pie.
“There’s no place I’d rather be this Thanksgiving than with our guests,” Jason says. “The pandemic is hitting everyone hard, especially our population. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate Thanksgiving than making sure those in need have a warm and welcoming place to spend the day. Thanksgiving is about family and friends. And that’s who our guests are. They’re family. They’re friends. And St. Francis House is home for those who may not have one to call their own.”
Past Thanksgiving’s at St. Francis House: