(Courtesy St. Francis House)
A group of current and former North End residents are gearing up for their annual sale to benefit a downtown homeless shelter.
The North End Friends of St. Francis House will host the annual flea market and bake sale at the Nazzaro Community Center on Friday and Saturday, March 16 – 17. Last year the event, with additional support by an anonymous donor, raised $18,000 to help support the Boylston Street shelter, which serves more than 800 homeless Bostonians each day.
The North End Friends of St. Francis House and the annual sale were founded by North End natives John Romano and Olivia Scimeca in 2005, when Romano decided to observe Lent through an act of charity.
“Trying to be a good Catholic, I said, ‘Instead of giving something up, I should do something good,’” he recalled in an interview last year.
His friend Scimeca helped connect him with St. Francis House, and they arranged the first event, raising only about $1,000 but also collecting items the homeless could use, including toiletries, cosmetics and new, warm socks.
The flea market later grew to include a bake sale featuring fresh pastries and breads donated by North End bakeries and by neighborhood residents, as well as eggplant sandwiches prepared by Romano’s parents, Mary and Frank. In 2007, an anonymous donor began matching the amount raised by the sale, which has generated a total of about $100,000 in donations for the shelter.
Romano said last year that the sale was fortunate to have broad support from the North End community.
“A lot of people come in and they’ll buy 10, 12 dollars worth of stuff and throw a $20 bill in the jar and say, ‘The rest is a donation,’” he said. “And we’ve had a gentleman that every year for the last three years has brought us a $1,000 check.”
This year’s flea market and bake sale will take place at the Nazzaro Community Center on North Bennet Street from 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. on Friday, March 16, and from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. on Saturday, March 17.
The friends will accept donations the week of March 12 at the Nazzaro Community Center, open from 7 a.m. – 9 p.m. each day. They ask for books, CDs, DVDs, jewelry, collectibles, toys and games, and small furniture such as end tables, umbrella stands, and coat racks. They cannot accept clothing.
Baked goods for the sale can be dropped off at the Nazzarro Community Center from 5 – 8 p.m. on March 15 or any time on March 16.
The friends also accept monetary donations by cash or check and encourage neighbors to bring in spare change they’ve accumulated. Several neighborhood stores also have cans to collect donations.