With a little help from the Patriots, a Boston shelter hosts a tailgate-themed party
On Sunday morning, Sidney Leon Dillard said he had two hopes for this year: a sixth Super Bowl victory for his New England Patriots, and to find a home.
The latter is still possible.
Dillard, 60 said he spends every day at St. Francis House, a homeless shelter in downtown Boston, where he has built a community. A football fan ever since he moved to Boston from North Carolina in 1969, Dillard was decked out in Patriots gear provided by the team for a tailgate-themed party the shelter was throwing the morning of Super Bowl Sunday for their diehard fans.
After hearing about the event, the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation donated beanies and gloves bearing the team’s name and photos, bracelets, and cups.
Last year’s game against the Atlanta Falcons was playing on a television screen in a common room, while in the dining hall a feast awaited: 900 chicken wings, 450 bratwurst sausages, 35 gallons of chili, 50 gallons of fruit punch, and 800 cookies, according to Christina Smith, marketing & communications manager at St. Francis House. It was enough food for the more than 350 people that attended, she said.
“I remember the bad times, and I’m loving the good times,” said Dillard, who did a touchdown dance of his own when he won Patriots gloves in a raffle. “It picks people’s spirits up. You come here, you enjoy a nice lunch, talk to some friends, talk about the game.”
Karen LaFrazia, president and chief executive of St. Francis House, came up with the idea for the party while talking to people, such as Dillard, who were excited about the big game. “They were expressing to me their Patriots Nation spirit,” LaFrazia said, “It just dawned on me that they’re as big a Patriots fan as anybody else and didn’t have a place to share in the revelry, to be together with friends. When you’re homeless, you’re often on the outside looking in.”
A large Patriots banner greeted guests as they started entering the lobby about 10 a.m. Sunday.
“I just love it here,” said Nicole Guercia, 24, a volunteer who comes to St. Francis twice a week, as she prepared to serve meals. “This is just amazing. Just some sense of normalcy.”
Later in the morning, guests were shown a personal videotaped message from Patriots owner Robert Kraft.
“Hi there, everyone at St. Francis House,” said Kraft. “I’m so excited you’re having this tailgate party and celebrating our AFC championship. . . . Thanks for your support.”
Alas, the Patriots were unable to win Super Bowl LII. Although they did not punt in the game, they fell to Philadelphia, 41-33.
Jeffrey, 53, who didn’t want to give his last name, was grateful to Kraft for taking time to acknowledge their support, and to the shelter for giving them a place to celebrate.
“I’m happy to be able to be here with everybody,” Jeffrey said to LaFrazia. “If you didn’t have a party here, I don’t know what I would do. Being here today means I’m a part of something.”