St. Francis Manor nets precious support at Boulevard event

PHOTO BY MARY SCHENKEL

For nearly 50 years, St. Francis Manor has been providing safe, affordable housing to limited-income seniors, a commodity that is becoming increasingly more difficult to find.

Understanding the ever-growing need, supporters of the nonprofit enjoyed an Evening at the Boulevard fundraiser, hosted by Counter Culture chef/owners Anthony and Lisa Damiano, with presenting sponsor Gibson Produce.

In addition to delicious passed hors d’oeuvres, the evening featured a large assortment of auction items, filling a table that ran down the length of the room, music by members of the Gifford Youth Orchestra and a tennis exhibition featuring four pros from the Boulevard.

“Tonight is our first fundraiser since 2020, since COVID, so we are very excited about that,” said Bonnie Metz, St. Francis Manor executive director.

“We have a goal of expanding in the next couple of years, hopefully 36 more apartments,” said Metz.

St. Francis Manor currently has 98 studio apartments, and 18 one-bedroom apartments, the latter constructed four years ago. Located on 20th Avenue, the peaceful, five-acre tree-lined property surrounds a small lake with a boardwalk.

“Our mission is to be able to continue providing affordable apartments for seniors. Our studios are under $400 a month,” said Metz. “We’ve been able to maintain that coming up on 50 years, two years from now, which is exciting.”

She said proceeds from the event will primarily help with operational costs.

“Honestly, right now our focus is maintaining the 1974 buildings, which is all the studio apartments.”

She explained that thanks to grants received from various funders, they have been able to make a lot of improvements over the past few years, including impact windows and new roofing.

“So our goal is to maintain those buildings before building new. There are still some plumbing issues, maybe electrical, that we need to zoom in on.”

Although any expansion plans are in the future, she said there is a huge need for additional housing now.

“We have a waiting list of 100 people, and it’s growing. We have people that walk in or call every day that need housing immediately,” said Metz.

She notes that the wait list nearly matches their current residency of 120 seniors.

“We just want to continue doing what we’re doing. I think there has only been maybe two rate increases. I mean, the studios are below $400 a month, and then the 18 one-bedroom apartments are $600 a month.”

Prior to the tennis exhibition, Metz and Maria Elena Kitchell, board president, expressed their appreciation to everyone involved in the success of the event, with Kitchell noting that this was the first time one of their fundraisers had been held outside of their own property.

For additional information, visit StFrancisManor.org.

Photos by Mary Schenkel

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