story & photo
by Jessica Warzeniak
News of budget cuts and financial difficulties are nothing new during times of economic downfall. But in the case of Martin House Inc., Norwich, help was around the corner. Marcel Bouley, owner, Engine 6 Pizza, Norwich, heard about Martin House’s trouble and stepped up to help.
Martin House is home to 57 people, some with a history of mental illness or addiction, all battling with homelessness. It started in 1982 as affordable housing and support services to help people considered on the margin of society become a part of the community. Martin House offers a caring environment
“We rebuild lives here,” said Tom Hyland, Executive Director.
To operate, the home receives grants from various organizations in the region, the largest being the United Way. Unfortunately, donations to the United Way are down which decreases funding for Martin House. The top two biggest expenses are staffing followed by food.
The staff decided to take a pay cut – no raises for hourly workers and 10% cut for salaried employees – to conitnue to proved services at a maximum level. The home is staffed 24 hours a day and already operates with essential personnel only.
“We need to reduce our budget,” said Tom. “It has to be be in food.”
Marcel heard about Martin House’s plight and offered to provide a Wednesday night meal. Engine 6 prepares a different pasta dinner for all 57 residents every week and Marcel delivers it to the home.
“It evolved. I was getting to know the staff and a lot of the residents here, since they are customers of mine. It’s proximity. We are so close to Martin House. We deliver here all the time,” said Marcel. “This is my way of giving back. To help people who need help. We have the ability and I thought it would be a good thing to do.”
“We already donate gift certificates for the Thames River Family Program (Martin House’s sister program) and do raffles. It fell naturally. Tom and I started talking about it and then it was happening.”
“Marcel is making all the difference in the world here,” said Tom. “It is saving us one major meal a week. It really helps our budget.”
“It also helped us think about things differently,” said Paula Oberg, Director of Service Operations. “How else can we be creative about our food budget? It provided the spark.”
When Marcel came this Wednesday to deliver the food, the residents were in the middle of a house meeting, but stopped to give him a round of applause. “Thank you!” shouted a resident. “You are very, very welcome. All of you!” called Marcel.
To make a tax-dedcutible donation, volunteer or learn more, contact: Martin House, 401 W. Thames St., Building 700, Norwich or call 860.889.6150. The Thames River Family Program and Martin House are holding a joint lunch auction on Sunday, May 3, 11:30 am to 2:00 pm at the Mystic Marriott, Groton. It is the largest foundraiser for both organizations. For more information call Laura Hobart at 860.887.3288.