NEW BRITAIN - Years ago, Stephen Anderson was looking to support an organization that really made a difference in people’s lives.
Three decades later, he and his wife, Evelyn, both Berlin residents, received a Lifetime Service Award for their contributions of time and energy to the Friendship Service Center.
“I’ve enjoyed every minute of helping them,” Anderson said minutes after being recognized at the organization’s 49th annual meeting at Angelico’s restaurant Tuesday morning.
His wife also volunteered, and together they helped on capital campaigns for the center’s locations at 241 and 85 Arch St.
But Evelyn Anderson wanted to interact more with the clients the organization served, so 11 years ago she helped form the Friends of the Friendship Center, who provide extras such as pizza parties, bus passes, coat collections, welcome baskets and passes to the YMCA and Boys & Girls Club to children in the shelter and in other programs.
“During the pizza parties we get to mingle with everyone,” said Evelyn Anderson, who also was instrumental in starting the Be The Light luminary campaign calling attention to homelessness.
“It gives you a different perspective on homelessness. You realize that homeless people are just like you. We are enriched by what we are doing for the Friendship Center.”
The annual meeting celebrates the center’s programs, which provide emergency shelter, transitional and permanent supportive housing helping people to get their lives back on track after homelessness.
The organization relies on state and federal grants, fundraising and private donations. It also hosts a community soup kitchen Monday through Friday.
Also honored were Robert Cohen, named Landlord of the Year, for his work in providing a safe place for clients to live after dealing with homelessness and Lillian Gopian, an employee of New Britain EMS who, for the past three years, has provided holiday gifts and clothing to every child staying in the emergency shelter.
Clients whose lives have been transformed by the work of the Friendship Servuce Center told the crowd of dozens, including board members, volunteers and trustees, that they were grateful for the opportunity to succeed.
“On April 30, I will get back custody of my son,” said a 23-year-old woman named Colby who entered the Friendship Center six months ago after a stint in prison. “My plan is to have a car and an apartment and everything my son would need.”
Lisa Backus can be reached at 860-801-5066 or Lbackus@centralctcommunications.com.