Sisters Theresa Fonti and Maureen Faenza, CSJ
“Adapting During COVID”
Sisters Maureen Faenza and Theresa Fonti, who founded the House of Bread (HOB) in Hartford, 41 years ago, to feed the hungry and give hope to the needy, are still fulfilling that mission – with a slight twist.
Before the pandemic, homeless clients would visit their soup kitchen dining room twice a day for hot meals. Once the pandemic hit, HOB adopted CDC guidelines, including social distancing, masks for all, plexiglass shields and contactless “grab and go” meals prepared by the kitchen staff for clients to pick up and take out.
Now, with most homeless clients under the care of the state, which has provided temporary and permanent affordable housing and food in an attempt to prevent the spread of the virus, HOB’s clients are the low-income, unemployed and underemployed residents with families who live in the neighborhood. Those families have been hard hit by job loss brought on by COVID-19 business closures and downsizing.
“We haven’t missed a beat,” Sr. Theresa said. “Right now we’re focused on food insecurity.”
HOB provides meals and groceries to those families five days a week. They don’t serve on weekends because it is not safe for volunteers to be gathering in groups yet. And they closed their day shelter.
But they still also are preparing and delivering meals for children at Boys & Girls Clubs around Hartford and to some private schools under their Kids’ Café program. The HOB kitchen also is being used by another nonprofit to make sandwiches for their needy clients.
Both Sisters Maureen and Theresa, who have been vaccinated, are on site, with a small staff.
And despite having to hold their largest fundraiser mostly online this year, donations haven’t stopped. “People have been very generous,” Sr. Theresa said, explaining that people aren’t going out to eat as much, so they have more disposal income.
“With COVID, we have put a lot more faith in God that we will get through this,” Sr. Theresa said. “We have been blessed to continue our mission and we have such unwavering commitment from our board, staff, volunteers and supporters.”
In photo, Sister Theresa is left, and Maureen is to her right.