January 2023 News

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2023: Hope, Conviction and Commitment

As we wrap up a season of holiday joy and celebration and kick off the new year, we are filled with hope and also the sober reality that there is still much work that needs to be done. 

The 2022 year-end events – distribution of 500 turkeys with all the fixings to Hartford families; special holiday meals on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day; the annual Toy Shoppe Celebration; and our housing team/tenant holiday party – were all wonderful opportunities for communities to connect and for folks to join hands in generosity and gratitude. Continuing in that theme, we are so very grateful for the generosity of the hundreds of people who chose to support our work with a financial gift as 2022 came to a close.

Looking ahead in 2023, we know that people in our community continue to struggle with the effects of inflation (especially on food prices), an increase in homelessness in our area and across the country, and the continuing fall-out from COVID and the end of COVID-era special benefits. Our staff knows, first-hand, how challenging it can be to navigate our country’s and state’s complicated assistance programs. 

But we stand ready to help every way we can – with food, housing assistance, health support, and so much more. We welcome you, and our whole community, to join us with your “time, talent and treasure”. 

Don’t hesitate to come over for breakfast or lunch (Monday through Thursday) or dinner (Wednesday through Saturday) at Gather55, and join our mission of connecting communities while you enjoy a great meal with family, friends or colleagues.

Let’s start 2023 with hope, conviction and commitment and together, put our caring into action!

Warm regards,


Gather55 Dinner Update- 2 Heavy Hitters up to Bat!


Time is running out if you wanted to taste delicious additions to Gather55's January dinner menu, featuring a golden beet and burrata plate, a spicy lamb tagine and a warm oatmeal cookie with a sweet potato and cream cheese frosting, created by January's special guest chef, award-winning Chef Emily Mingrone of Tavern on State (New Haven).

Chef Emily's additions to our menu are mouth-watering and inspiring diners to give us even more 5 star reviews! And bonus- a few of Chef Billy Grant's and Chef Tyler Anderson's menu favorites are also still available on our January menu, so hurry in!


As for February, we can now reveal that our new menu items will feature dishes by another very special guest chef, the talented Chef Xavier "X" Santiago of The Place 2 Be (WeHa/Hartford), who you may also know as 2019's winner from the Food Network's “Chopped” - lucky us! Chef X is no stranger to the Gather55 kitchen either, as he also donated his time and talents for our Thanksgiving holiday community meal.

Starting Feb. 1, the dinner menu will see the additions of Chef X's soft-scrambled farm egg grilled sourdough toast, baked eggplant caponata and piquillo polenta, Farro Island Salmon with sweet potato puree and roasted brussel sprouts, and a citrus yogurt crème brûlée.

February's menu will also offer select dishes from our 3 previous guest chefs still available. And stay tuned- Chef X will also be cooking up something very special next month in honor of Valentine's Day!

Gather55 is open for dinner service

Wednesday through Saturday with seating from 5:30pm to 8:30pm.

To make a reservation (recommended, but not required) or to find out more information, visit the Gather55 website!

Visit the Gather55 Website

Faith In Action

A wonderful social justice group, representing five local synagogues, got together on Sunday, January 15 (in honor of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend) at Beth David Synagogue in West Hartford for an amazing morning and “Mitzvah Day”. After two religious services, roughly 75 people from all 5 synagogues gathered together for breakfast and heard a powerful story from our newest Faces of Homelessness Speaker, Adriana Calderon. After hearing her incredible story of how she experienced and overcame homelessness while attending CCSU as a college student, the group donated 100 sandwiches, which were used to help feed people experiencing food insecurity and homelessness the very next day on MLK Jr. Day. Thank you to our friends at Beth David Synagogue, Rabbi Adler, Rabbi Konigsburg and the entire social justice committee for including Hands On Hartford and our Faces of Homelessness Speakers Bureau program as part of this special day. As they say in Hebrew – “tikkun Olum” – repair the world!

HOH in the News

Earlier this month, we welcomed WFSB - Channel 3 Eyewitness News reporter Roger Susanin and Nate the camera operator here for a meal at Gather55! They are doing a special segment about Gather55, set to air on Fri., Jan. 27 shortly after 5:30pm on WFSB Channel 3! Thanks to Channel 3 for helping to get the word out about our hidden gem in Hartford! We hope the feature will attract new diners, volunteers and donors to support our initiative!

Faces of Homelessness Speaker, Tony Rivera, and Community Engagement Manager, Geoff Luxenberg, were recently featured on WTIC News/Talk 1080 with morning host Steve Parker to talk about homelessness. Take a listen HERE! (Scroll down to the January 7 "Geoff and Tony" episode.) If you’d like to have the Faces of Homelessness Speakers' Bureau visit and talk with your company, school, faith or civic group, contact Geoff Luxenberg at GLuxenberg@handsOnhartford.org to learn more!

Holiday Meals Recap

We "brought the jolly" to a whopping 282 people (a near-record) during our Christmas Community Holiday meal last month and later rang in 2023 at our New Year's Holiday meal, serving close to 200 Hartford neighbors! Amazing!

Individuals, children and families enjoyed delicious and filling chef-created meals, 100+ of which were served to children and teens who visited. Kids were also gifted with winter hats, gloves, socks, take-home snacks, and special toys of their choosing and adults left with a bag full of gifts of warmth, snacks and heartfelt cards made by caring kids who created them.

Thank you first and foremost to our generous Christmas sponsors: the Gengras Center, Roggi's Auto Service and an anonymous friend. Thank you, further, to our thoughtful New Year's Day sponsors, the Max Cares Foundation and First Church of Christ Simsbury, all of whose support was so needed and truly appreciated.

Thank you also to all of our dedicated volunteers and staff who selflessly gave of their time during the holiday to ensure all of our guests were taken care of and felt the holiday spirit! We couldn't have done this without such generous teamwork! Happy 2023!

Check out more photos here and here!

Toy Shoppe Recap

Hands On Hartford's Toy Shoppe 2022 was truly epic! We were able to provide toys to 308 children this past holiday season thanks to our VERY generous sponsors, Avon Old Farms School, PeoplesBank Talcott Resolution, Trinity College, Gengras Volkswagen of Plainville and First Church of Christ Simsbury.

135 families got to "shop" in our abundant Toy Shoppe, whose toys were conveniently organized by age, and also enjoyed holiday treats, staff and volunteer-led games and arts & crafts, fresh-popped popcorn and even photos with worldwide celebrity, Santa Claus! Special thanks also to the Alex and Karen Wyman Holiday Fund for helping to provide holiday gifts at this event.

We are ever grateful for our caring community for hosting so many toy drives, to our sponsors for their generous financial support, and to our staff and volunteers for giving of their time and joyful energy to make this day so special!

Check out more photos here!

Board of Directors Update

Please join us in welcoming Kelvin Young to our Hands On Hartford Board of Directors! Kelvin, a resident of Middletown with ample professional experience in Hartford, comes to us with a wealth of skills that will be vital in helping support the future of our work.

Kelvin is a Holistic Stress Management Instructor, Sound Practitioner, Certified Addiction Recovery Coach and Recovery Support Specialist and currently owns Kelvin Young, LLC. He was featured in “Uprooting Addiction”, a powerful documentary on addiction recovery. In 2014, Kelvin was presented and awarded the “Professional of the Year Award” from the Bridgeport Reentry Collaborative and also received special recognition from U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) for being a positive role model and directly contributing to the success of reentry efforts. Kelvin was also presented with the 2017 Dr. F. Marcus Brown Memorial Integrative Medicine Award for exceptional commitment to incorporating integrative medicine within CT Valley Hospital.

Kelvin will also be serving on our DEI (Diversity, Equity & Inclusion) Committee and has already started building strong connections with fellow Board members. We look forward to Kelvin sharing his talents and shining his positive light on HOH and the Hartford community.

New Staff Spotlights & Staff Updates

We welcome these new staff members to the Hands On Hartford team!

Patricia Meza

Evening Cook,


Bill Baysinger

Staff Accountant

Nick Pockoski

Kitchen Assistant, Gather55

DEI Multicultural Winter Celebration

HOH staff participated in a fun, educational and delicious Multicultural Winter Celebration potluck last month, coordinated by our hard-working DEI (Diversity, Equity & Inclusion) Committee, who also designed 2 educational bulletin boards of information honoring November's "Native American Heritage month" and December 3rd's "International Day of People with Disabilities Day", now on display at HOH.

Staff were encouraged to bring a holiday dish that represented their cultural upbringing and were encouraged to share background info on their dish. The food was diverse: from Hispanic cuisine to Jamaican to German to Polish to Mexican to Italian and more; everything was distinctive and delicious! Staff just love connecting with one other in such a culturally-inclusive way!

Look Who Has Their hands on Hartford!

We can't help but SING our friend, Joey Batts', praises for his amazing heart, as 2022 was his 9th year raising funds for local nonprofits who support the homeless throughout CT through his event, "Hip Hop for the Homeless". Hartford's show on Dec. 8th, at Black-Eyed Sally's Southern Kitchen & Bar, benefited HOH and was ON FIRE! Joey managed to raise a record $2,918 from event attendees and from two very generous Angel Donors. We are so grateful and touched that our community came together to support our Hartford neighbors experiencing homelessness. Thank you everyone and especially thanks to Joey!

Our dear friend, Jaida Foster has been coordinating food drives for HOH over the past year and she always impresses us by her leadership and incredible success! This time, she SURPASSED her own record, collecting 1,502lbs of nonperishable food to help stock our shelves during the holiday season! How amazing! This young lady has proven she truly knows how to inspire her friends, family and classmates to support those experiencing food insecurity. We're so grateful for her continued commitment to serving those in need!

We hope Jaida's story helps kids to know they are never too young to truly make a difference!

We were so excited to have The Greater Hartford Chapter of Jack and Jill, Inc. (pictured right) here recently, along with the American Red Cross, to host a blood drive to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Our friends with the GHC Jack and Jill also held an awesome drive-up food drive, which brought in hundreds of pounds of food to stock our pantry. Another great community partner, Slalom Consulting, helped out by donating food and volunteering to help us in the pantry. What a wonderful team effort to honor Dr. King!

Windsor C.A.R.E.S. (Citizens Assisting Residents Everywhere by Sharing) really cares! They recently collected and generously donated 892 socks, plus 80 gift bags filled with snacks, toiletries (that were cleverly gifted in reusable water bottles), and Mylar blankets to support the folks we serve in our Community Day Program and Homeless Outreach program. We especially loved the inspiring messages each bottle contained, including "Just because today is a terrible day, doesn't mean tomorrow won't be the best day of your life- you just gotta get there!" Thank you all for caring so much!

Just in time for winter, Footwear with Care hosted a boot distribution event at Hands On Hartford last week, in conjunction with the Hartford Police Department (thank you Officer Barrett) and several volunteers from the Hartford County Bar Association. Together, they helped more than 50 of our most vulnerable clients, giving them new boots, socks, gloves and scarves! Thanks to all who helped make this happen for our Hartford neighbors!

With all the new staff that have joined HOH, a gift of several used office chairs from our generous friends over at Nassau Financial Group was quite the blessing! Among the many other ways they regularly support HOH, Nassau also gifted us with fine art paintings to decorate our space and auction off, along with dozens of toys for our Toy Shoppe event! Shout out to Nassau's Community Engagement and Internal Communications staff member, the humble and amazing Jessica Fayle (sadly not pictured), for always coordinating these, and so many other, generous efforts!

Hands On Hartford is Hiring!

Hands On Hartford staff are dedicated, caring, and hardworking people who like to have fun while making a difference in our community. With great benefits, staff recognition and support, we value teamwork, compassion and community. 

Check out these open positions and help us spread the word:

  • Homeless Outreach Case Manager (Full Time- focus on clients aged 60+)
  • Housing Case Manager (Full Time)
  • Facility Tenant Assistant (Part Time nights)
  • More positions to be posted soon!

Find out more about these positions and how to apply HERE.

About Hands On Hartford

Hands On Hartford, in partnership with others, strengthens community in Hartford by responding faithfully to people in need through programs that change lives and renew human possibility.

We are committed to increasing food security and nutrition, improving health and providing housing while we engage volunteers and connect communities.

How Can I Help?

Go shopping! If you're an online Amazon shopper, be sure to start your shopping at smile.amazon.com and select Hands On Hartford as your charity. That way .5% of eligible purchases will automatically go to Hands On Hartford.

Make a donation! You will be part of a network of donors, volunteers and staff who work together to provide food, housing and related services for families who are struggling to make ends meet. To make a financial donation, visit our website at www.handsonhartford.org and click “Make a Donation Now,” or mail your check to Hands On Hartford, 55 Bartholomew Avenue, Hartford, CT 06106.

Or contact Kate Shafer at kshafer@handsonhartford.org for more in-kind donation ideas.

Request a matching donation from your employer! Many employers will match all or part of your donation - a great way to double your impact.

Leave a legacy. Ensure your long term impact on this community by including us in your estate plan, making qualified charitable distributions from your IRA, gifts of appreciated stock, or include us as a contingent beneficiary of your life insurance. Contact Executive Director Barbara Shaw to explore planned giving ideas and to join our Legacy Society. bshaw@handsonhartford.org or 860- 706-1502.

We are grateful for our community and the love, caring, compassion and support we see every day.

On Hartford, a Points of Light affiliate

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