Peri: “Of course food is essential…However, even more importantly, we offer our guests respect.  Everyone is treated like human beings.”

Peri Eaton in SFH Kitchen

Peri shares how he became involved with St. Francis House and why he is a supporter

I lived in France for nearly 30 years, where I worked in mental health/addiction counseling.  When I first moved back to Boston about four years ago, people started telling me about St. Francis House because they knew I was a social worker and lived in the neighborhood.

I started volunteering right away, splitting time between the kitchen and clothing.

However, that first winter, four years ago, was the one when we had terrible amounts of snow. Head Chef Seth Green began texting me every night, saying that other volunteers were snowbound and asking if I could come in since I lived close by.  I ended up volunteering 30 days in a row to serve meals.  That was the turning point for me.  Since then, I’ve been five days/week in the kitchen.

Most of what I know and have experienced of St. Francis House is from the perspective of the kitchen, of the basic service of offering food.

Of course food is essential.  We serve almost 600 meals a day.  If we didn’t do it, someone else would have to.  Where would all these people eat?  However, even more importantly, we offer our guests respect.  Everyone is treated like human beings.

When I worked in prisons in France, there was this authoritative, hands-off attitude on the part of the prison guards—they always called the inmates by their last names and never smiled at them.  However, we the therapists called our patients by their first names, or “Sir” or “Ma’am”, always shaking their hands as fellow human beings or offering a hug when needed.  St. Francis House has this same warm, embracing, respectful attitude towards all who come here.

I started volunteering initially because I just wanted to do something to help people in difficulty.

I also needed flexibility, which St. Francis House offers, because I was taking care of family commitments.  However, what began as a simple desire to help evolved into me really liking my colleagues, my team, and developing deep friendships at St. Francis House that have become like a second family.  It’s really been a transformational experience for me.

-Peri Eaton