Lisa Aquino, Chief Executive Officer

Lisa DH Aquino| December 2020 | The North Star Catholic

This time of year is spent in preparation and waiting – waiting for the celebration of Christmas and the birth of Jesus Christ. The season of Advent this year brings great anticipation and preparation for both the celebration of Christ’s birth and the hope of a vaccine and better tomorrows on the horizon.

I often write about hope and its importance. I write about the hope all of you give to our neighbors in need, I write about the hope that we have for a better future for our children, and I write about the hope that is sometimes hard to find.

When hope is hard to find, we can reflect on what it is we are grateful for. I’ve found that expressing and reflecting on my own gratitude helps make me happier and often gives me hope.

Right now, let us be filled with hope, knowing this story from Brother Francis Shelter (BFS) and how guests there are expressing and celebrating their gratitude.

The guests at Brother Francis Shelter have created a gratitude tree. The gratitude tree hangs in the hall, just above where some of our guests sleep at night. The tree is made from donated construction paper, markers, and pens. A brown tree trunk has been cut out of paper and taped to the wall. Leaves of many colors hang on the gratitude tree trunk and its branches.

Each leaf contains notes of thanks and appreciation from staff or guests. Some of the notes on the leaves answer the question of “what are you grateful for” with:
“For kind, caring people.”
“To be alive and healthy…life is short.”
“Today, I am so thankful for my family and all the loved ones in my life. They give me a reason to live.”
“Thank God for BFS.”

Thank God for BFS…And thank all of you who make Brother Francis Shelter happen every day.

Even with increased municipal support, Brother Francis Shelter is nearly 70% funded by donors in this Southcentral Alaska.

Despite all challenges and changes, Brother Francis Shelter remains, and it will continue to remain and serve the most vulnerable in our city. Our guests are grateful to have Brother Francis Shelter and grateful to you.

Brother Francis Shelter is also there to share in the joys – when a guest is housed, overcomes substance misuse, or finds a job. Brother Francis is there. The shelter is also there when our guests have a bad day, when they relapse and when they find out about the loss of a loved one. In the way family and community are there for each other – Brother Francis Shelter is there.

Brother Francis Shelter has transformed and changed significantly since the pandemic first began. We now serve our most vulnerable neighbors – focusing on sheltering the elderly and the medically fragile. We serve fewer guests – around 70 each night – all in the effort of keeping our guests safe from COVID, safe from the weather, and on the pathway to housing and permanent stability.

We are so grateful – and our guests are so grateful – that we have been able to continue services and adapt to the current environment. Brother Francis Shelter is a space of solstice, comfort, and home for 70 of our most vulnerable neighbors every single night. When the weight of the world becomes heavy, Brother Francis Shelter is there.

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