None of us could have imagined that when the Franciscan Center closed its dining room to guests on March 13, 2020, in the face of widespread concern about the spread of Covid-19, that it would be 936 days—over two and a half years—until guests returned.On October 4, the feast day of our patron St. Francis of Assisi, they’ll be welcomed back inside.
They’ll be greeted by a new portrait of St. Francis, created by one of our most dedicated volunteers, Pat O’Brien. An artist and muralist and a whiz with spreadsheets and reports as well, Pat’s contributions to the Center are invaluable.
Fittingly, like the first rock Francis carried to rebuild the church at San Damiano, the painting was the first step in a year-long effort to renovate the Center’s aging service and workspaces.
The space where the painting hangs, the dining room, took precedence. At the height of the pandemic, it was converted into a heavily-used production and distribution space for meals being sent all over the city—to senior centers, youth groups, public housing complexes, and homeless encampments. As the emergency ebbed, builder Lennar Homes volunteered their services to turn the dining room into a warm, dignified space to welcome our guests.
The dining room reopening will be followed later in October by the dedication of a new classroom kitchen for the Dignity Plates Training Academy. As you may know, the Academy is a no-cost, 13-week program that prepares adults, some of whom have been guests at the Center, for careers in the culinary and hospitality industries. We’re looking forward to welcoming our fifth cohort of students into the new space in late fall.
Over time, the kitchen will also serve as a production space to grow social enterprises such as Dignity Plates Catering and The Elevated Soup Co. Our aim is to provide ready employment opportunities for Academy graduates and gain additional revenue for the Center’s operations.
We need your help. We’re seeking to raise $100,000 by December 31, 2022, to support the expenses involved in reopening the dining room and ensuring the new kitchen is up and running and ready as a classroom and production space.
Please consider a gift to the Center today. There is so much more we can do together to have an incredible impact on the lives of our guests, clients, and students.