February 2023 News

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Hands On Hartford Fights Childhood Hunger

Did you know that nearly 30% of families in Hartford are living in poverty? This means we have a lot of children here in our community facing food insecurity, especially on weekends when there is no opportunity for school breakfast or lunch. Studies have shown how important good nutrition and adequate food are to school performance and cognitive development. This is a true equity issue with long term impacts. And we know this: no child should go hungry or worry about whether there will be enough food to eat at home. That's where our Backpack Nutrition Program comes in - every week we deliver a backpack full of food for the weekend for 225 kids from 8 different Hartford schools. Each backpack contains two breakfasts, two lunches, plenty of snacks, juice, and shelf-stable milk. We also add weekly enhancements, like fresh fruit, canned chicken, community resource information and gifts like art supplies or Black History Month kits. We get lots of help from folks who volunteer, donate mac & cheese and other food and who give financial support. The feedback we get from parents is that they appreciate the extra kid-friendly food, which enables them to stretch their scarce resources. Our favorite kid comment is "I like that there is someone who cares."

We're often in need of volunteers to help sort through food donations and pack backpacks and we are always grateful for gifts of food and funds to help support this vital program. If you're passionate about helping ensure children in our community always have nourishing meals, please reach out to volunteer at volunteering@handsonhartford.org or make a philanthropic gift HERE.

Celebrating Black History Month

We celebrated Black History Month in a variety of ways here at Hands On Hartford, one of which was, courtesy of our DEI Committee, displaying a detailed bulletin board honoring some of CT's amazing and impactful black historical figures. We also showcased weekly movies themed around Black History to educate, entertain and inspire. Movies that were big hits with our staff and clients were:

  • "Who We Are: The Chronicle of Racism in America"
  • "Oprah + Viola: A Netflix Special Event"
  • "Kevin Hart’s Guide to Black History"
  • Lee Daniels’ "The Butler"
  • "Loving"

We encourage you to check them out as well; all can be found streaming now on Netflix!

Gather55 Dinner Update- Please Welcome Chef Prasad!

We have an exciting announcement about our celebrity guest chef for the month of March! We are honored to welcome the award-winning Chef Prasad Chirnomula, who has been known and recognized for his restaurants, namely, Bombay Bar & Grill, Tandoori, Thali, Thali Too, Oaxaca Kitchen, Saffron, Chao Chi, India and most currently, Chef Prasad in New Canaan CT.

Chef Prasad was the winner of the 2011 Elm City Iron Chef competition, the winner of the “Tournament of the Champions” and has appeared on the Food Network's “Chopped”. He is also a two-time Honoree of the popular James Beard Foundation.

With Chef’s passion for Indian cuisine, both critics and guests have grown to count on his consistently delectable and nuanced food. It was no exaggeration when the esteemed Rosengarten Report called him "...the most exciting Indian chef in the United States.” The New York Times review of Thali restaurants gave it a coveted “Excellent” rating and celebrated Chef Prasad’s cuisine as: "unusual, exciting, and so varied that I am never bored with eating there.”

When Chef Prasad moved to the United States in 1986, he had just $100 in his pocket. Despite his wealth of experience, his first job in the U.S. was as a busboy at a restaurant in Long Island, but his ambition and passion were unstoppable; this drive is the reason he has become the culinary legend that he is today.

When asked why he chose to support Gather55, Chef Prasad shared, "I am honored to serve this great community of Hartford's Hands On Hartford and Gather55. Sometimes it's not all about $$ but giving back to the community is certainly more value than $$'s in your bank. And I like the way Gather55 works, where all can gather and dine regardless of ability to pay and enjoy the welcoming service with those who can pay and those who cannot."

We are so grateful to have Chef Prasad extending his list of culinary contributions to our very own Gather55! March's dinner menu includes a Coconut Crab Cake with tomato chutney, Chicken Tikka Masala with basmati mint rice, and Shahi Tukda (Indian Bread Pudding) with nuts and raisins. And bonus- select favorites of Chef Tyler Anderson's, Chef Billy Grant's, Chef Emily Mingrone's and Chef Xavier Santiago's dishes are also still available on our March menu, so hurry in!

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

What a game! What support! The Super Bowl this year was SUPER exciting and First Presbyterian Church, Hartford was SUPER generous. They ran a successful "Souper Bowl" food collection, collecting a whopping 2,223 lbs of nonperishables for our MANNA Community Pantry. This is definitely the time of year we can use the help in keeping our shelves stocked. We are so lucky to have their support.

In addition to adopting Gather55 with amazing financial and volunteer support,

First Church in Windsor donated 100 outreach kits filled with snacks, handwarmers and socks - what a gift they are to the community.

Our friends from American Baptist Churches of CT worked hard to keep our Hartford neighbors warm and cozy with this generous donation of hats, blankets, sweatshirts, socks, handwarmers and more - we are so grateful to be able to share these with visitors to our programs and with folks our Homeless Outreach Tream connects with.

Thank you to The Lillian Fund of the Jewish Community Foundation for stopping by for a visit, a tour, and for dining with us at Gather55! We truly loved having them here and so appreciate their patronage of Gather55 and their interest in our work.

HOH in the News

We welcomed WFSB - Channel 3 Eyewitness News reporter Roger Susanin to Gather55, who stopped by recently to grab lunch and feature our restaurant on a fun segment of "Something's Cooking". Some of our beloved volunteers and staff were interviewed and, judging by his reaction, we think Roger just loved his meal! If you missed the clip, you can watch it HERE.

We are so grateful for the Office of Radio and Television, Archdiosese of Hartford, a wonderful nonprofit organization, for this awesome Crossroads Magazine feature of Gather55, six minutes in. Check out the full video HERE! (This video is copyright ©ORTV, Inc. All rights reserved)

We welcome you to listen to this raw and eye-opening half hour documentary series called The Frontlines [Hartford] E6/S1 "Outside For Real" which focuses on homelessness in Hartford. About 8-9 minutes into this episode, you’ll hear a few words from our Community Day Program Specialist, Donessia Harris. 

Watch it HERE. 

Gathering More Support!

We are excited to announce that our friends at Delamar West Hartford, in partnership with Artisan West Hartford, are hosting a Chef’s Tasting Dinner at Artisan Restaurant on

Thursday, April 20 at 6:00PM.

Proceeds of this exclusive tasting dinner will benefit Hands On Hartford and our mission of strengthening the community in Hartford by responding faithfully to people in need, through programs that change lives and renew human possibility.

To learn more and purchase tickets: CLICK HERE!

New Staff Updates

Welcome Rebecca to the Hands On Hartford team!

Rebecca Fyler

Peer Support Specialist

We are happy to welcome Rebecca to the Hands On Hartford team! Rebecca's role is to work as part of the Homeless Outreach Team to canvass streets, woods and other areas identified as places where unsheltered people are living, and to provide individualized, ongoing coaching, support, engagement and inspiration to those experiencing homelessness, ultimately helping them connect to the resources they need.

Look Who Has Their hands on Hartford!

Julie Bergeron, who is one of the many talented artists/muralists with our non-profit neighbor, The RiseUP Group/RiseUP for Arts, taught a fun and educational painting class for some of our Gather55 guests this past week, sparking the creativity and talent of these eager-to-learn participants. We think they did AMAZING and it seems we have a few budding artists in our midst.

Julie's art can be seen all over the state, including 2 murals right around the corner at Parkville Market and on Pope Park Highway. We also have photos of 2 of her beautiful murals in Gather55, thanks to @streetartfromtheroad (a good friend of Hands On Hartford).

We encourage you to stop by Gather55, and drive around our Parkville neighborhood, to see some of it firsthand. We just love the creativity and talent Hartford is growing and are so happy to be a part of it.

We were super excited to host a service project with a new partner, LTIMindtree Ltd, here at Hands On Hartford. While here, they learned all about Hands On Hartford, attended a Faces of Homelessness speaking event, and packed outreach kits for our Homeless street outreach team - we just love the energy and commitment to the community!

We truly felt the love this month!

Our friends, Stacey (President & Founder) and Sherry (Executive Assistant) at Infoshred LLC, where they are "committed to making a difference and helping to make the world a better place", stopped by to surprise us with a very generous gift of warm socks, t-shirts, sleeping bags, and a very-handy rolling cart in honor of their "25 Weeks of Giving". We were stop #9 on their tour and feel so grateful for their thoughtfulness in helping to keep our Hartford neighbors, who are experiencing homelessness, warm this winter.

Our friends from the P.E.O. Sisterhood in West Hartford were here the other day to re-stock the book-nook shelves they set up here several years ago. When parents with kids visit our pantry, the kids can keep busy with a book - and take it home with them. We can't over-emphasize the good stuff that comes from reading; every kid deserves plenty of books of their own. Thank you friends!

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)
  • Community Engagement Program specialist (Part Time)
  • 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?

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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