NEW YORK — Tenants, friars and current and former staff members gathered last month to commemorate two important events at St. Francis Friends of the Poor here: the opening of new offices and the 25th anniversary of St. Francis Residence II.
SSFP celebrated at the West 22nd Street building with the three friars who founded the residences — John Felice, OFM, John McVean, OFM, and Thomas Walters, OFM — enjoying refreshments, conversation and a look at the recently-renovated second-floor offices.
The offices are the first on-site for SSFP, the Province’s ministry providing housing for the mentally ill. Since establishing the ministry in the early 1980s, the directors and their staffs have worked in the Provincial Office and, for several years during the construction of the current HNP headquarters, in leased office space in Midtown Manhattan.
“We decided to construct offices within a residence for the next generation of leaders,” said John Felice, president of SFFP (shown in photo). “After all, we are not getting any younger.”
Approximately 65 people attended the June 24 open house, according to John. “The afternoon, divided into two phases, attracted many friends of the residences. At 2 p.m., tenants gathered, and then, at 3 p.m., guests came,” John said. “Many former staff members, including psychiatrists, stopped in.
“We are lucky to have had many loyal workers on our staff over the years,” he continued. “Because it is a family atmosphere here, people have fond memories. It was wonderful to see everyone.”
Among the visitors were members of the SFFP Board of Directors, including Stephen Minmaugh, OFM, who works part time at the residences. Other friars participated in the celebration, some of whom were in New York from out-of-state for the Province’s jubilee of profession celebration that evening.
Residence II Renovation
The renovation to Residence II, home to 95 people, began in December 2008. The $250,000 project was funded by benefactors, according to John.
The new space — four offices and one large room for the development staff — was previously residential space. Through attrition, the former eight rooms were vacated, John said.
The SFFP residences, whose three buildings house 255 men, have a low turnover rate in comparison to similar housing facilities, according to John. On average, he said, 13 rooms are vacated annually, mostly from residents’ deaths or transfers to nursing homes.
The staff members at the festive reception discussed activities available to residents, including participation in a tenants council and programs focusing on writing, exercise and photography. Trips to places like Chinatown, in lower Manhattan, and suburban Bear Mountain, N.Y., are also taken.
On July 29, SFFP residents will participate in a cookout in Spruce Run Park in central New Jersey.
Guests at the June celebration wore polo shirts imprinted with “St. Francis Residence II 25th Anniversary,” distributed by the three founding friars and their staff.
Shown in the photos “behind” the one above are: (top left) Paul Sinnema,OFM, of Wood-Ridge, N.J., and John McVean, (right) Thomas Walters with Peggy Rafferty, left, former Residence I nurse, and Diane Sonde, long-time friend and worker in New York’s Department of Human Services, (bottom) John Felice.
— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.