Volunteer chefs at Enfield Loaves and Fishes on Thanksgiving included Sandy Govoni, Aldo Della Giustina, Mary Lee Brody, and Mike Leborious pictured left to right. (Courtesy photo / Courant Community)

Article By Steven Smith Hartford Courant on Dec. 4

ENFIELD — Francie Berger was the Reference Librarian at Hall Memorial Library in Ellington for years, but she recently began a leave of absence to take the temporary position as managing director of finance and administration at Enfield Loaves and Fishes for one year. She had heard that the organization, which has grown tremendously in its 40 years, was looking for someone with Berger’s background. This situation, she said, was a win-win, as she was able to fill the position in Enfield while the library’s need for programming is much less, due to the pandemic. Besides managing the finances, Berger will be keeping an eye on policies.

“Just making sure everything is transparent,” she said. “Working with our volunteers and our volunteer grant writer.”

So far, she said, her new position has been great.

“It’s awesome. I’m having the time of my life. It’s a great challenge,” she said. “For me, personally, I get to use a lot of skills that I’ve developed over my many, many years of working. I started out as a designer at LEGO, here in Enfield, so I’ve used some of the skills I picked up there. As a reference librarian, I’ve got a lot of good research skills, and I know how to work with vendors.”

Recently, the kitchen served 924 meals for Thanksgiving, compared with approximately 450 to 500 on a typical day. Berger said she is thankful to the restaurants, supermarkets, and individuals who donate to the kitchen, as well as the volunteers who donate their time.

“It feels really good to work here,” she said. “This sort of just happened, and it was the right thing at the right time. Now, it’s really really rewarding to help people.”
The pandemic, she said, has created a much larger need.
“A lot of people are unemployed who never expected to be unemployed, so there has been a tremendous increase in the past eight months,” she said. “Donations have been steady, and maybe grown a little bit. We’ve been fortunate in that the community has been extremely generous, but the need has grown, too.”

Enfield Loaves and Fishes recently acquired the former Silvia’s Restaurant building, at 23 North Main St. Soon, Berger said, they will be able to distribute meals to go in that building. Construction is expected to be completed near late January, hopefully before winter weather is in full force.

Our volunteers will have room to prepare food and serve people,” she said “Now, we have people sitting out in the cold, handing things out from a table. This will actually allow us to have a flow of people through the building.”

Post-COVID, the building will provide a much nicer and larger space for the kitchen to serve sit-down meals. For more information, or to donate to ELF visit https://enfieldloavesandfishes.org