At its annual benefit, held at Bryant Park Grill in Manhattan on October 20, POTS honored Fordham for “its longstanding partnership and unwavering support for our shared community.”
Christina Hanson, the nonprofit’s executive director, noted that Fordham students, faculty, staff, and alumni have been volunteering, interning, and working at the group’s Webster Avenue location, near the University’s Rose Hill campus, since POTS was established as a tiny storefront soup kitchen in 1982.
Today, POTS is far more than a soup kitchen. Last year alone, it served more than 35,000 people at its three-story building. In addition to its food pantry and the daily meal it offers in its community dining room, POTS helps guests with immediate and long-term needs through services including a barbershop, showers, medical and dental services, a legal clinic, and more.
‘Part of Your Loving Community’
John J. Cecero, S.J., vice president for mission integration and ministry, accepted the award on behalf of the University. He said Fordham shares POTS’ commitment to “the core values of respect, hospitality, and empowerment.”
“For this reason, so many community engaged Fordham constituencies have enthusiastically served at POTS, from the Fordham Kiwanis student leaders who were there from your very beginning, to our present engagement through Urban Plunge, Global Outreach, and Pedro Arrupe volunteers, among others,” Father Cecero said.
“We’re so grateful to be a part of your loving community,” he added, and “we hope to contribute as best we can to these efforts for years to come.”
Recognizing the Dignity of Each Person
The organization also honored former board member Francis J. “Fran” Conroy, GABELLI ’79, for his “leadership, service, and longstanding dedication to the people of the Bronx.”
Upon receiving the award, Conroy, a Fordham graduate and a longtime executive committee member of the Fordham President’s Council, said he was “humbled” by the honor and pleased to “celebrate two organizations that have been very meaningful to me.”
He said he and his wife, the Rev. Anne Conroy, FCRH ’79, met as undergraduates at Fordham, and “despite being a kid from upstate New York, in New York City for the first time, I felt an immediate connection” to the Bronx.
“Besides all the technical skills I learned at Fordham, what I really learned was a sense of gratitude and the desire pay forward my good fortune. Fordham continues to instill that in the students … [who come] from all over the country and have a desire to help their neighbors in need.”
He said he has been drawn to support POTS because “in its soul—and I don’t use that term lightly—it recognizes and respects the dignity of each person who walks through the door. It’s inspiring to see and it challenges us to do likewise.”
“As impressive as the food programs are, and as the legal assistance offered to its clients is, it was the shower, the haircut, the clothing—they seem like small things to most of us. But for many of our neighbors, that’s not the case,” he said. “Being able to take a shower, get a haircut, put on clean clothes, have an address that you can list on a job application or benefits application, that means all the difference in the world.”
Father Cecero told dinner attendees he was “especially humbled” for Fordham to be honored along with Conroy.
“Fran and his wife, Anne, are the generous benefactors of the Conroy Family Endowed Scholarship Fund at Fordham,” he said. “Their commitment to POTS is certainly consistent with how they live their lives for and with others.”
‘We’re in This Together’
Conroy is not the only member of the Fordham community who has served POTS as a board or staff member. Hanson noted that many other Fordham alumni have lent their expertise to the nonprofit throughout its 40-year history, including Jack Marth, FCRH ’86, POTS’ longtime director of programming.
Marth was a first-year student at Fordham when POTS was founded. He volunteered to help, working closely with Ned Murphy, S.J., GSAS ’66, one of the organization’s three co-founders. (Father Murphy died in 2012.)
“Being at POTS was an opportunity to sit down and get to know the people better—not just hand them a plate, but to get to know the reality of the people we serve,” Marth told Fordham Magazine in 2014.
“Father Ned used to say, ‘There is no us and them, it’s we. We’re somehow in this together.’ That’s a message POTS still wants to impart to the students who serve here.”