When John Paolini heard that the residents and staff of New Life Home for Women and Children needed a place to feed 60 people for Thanksgiving, it took less than 30 seconds for him to offer a solution.
"I said, 'Why don't we just have it here?'," said Paolini, owner of Piccola Italia, an Elm Street establishment for 12 years. "He's got a big heart," confirmed Grace Rosado, who started New Life Home with her husband, George, 35 years ago.
The non-profit organization in the North End of Manchester is a Christian residential home that helps women with children recover from alcohol and drug addiction and become self-sufficient members of the community. Rosado said women typically stay in the program with their children for 18 to 24 months where they learn about self-esteem, interpersonal relationships, parenting, computer skills and job skills. When they are finished the program, most graduates move on to jobs and/or college.
Paolini has known the Rosados for almost as long as he's been preparing delicious Italian food on Elm Street. And this is not the first time he has stepped up to help New Life Home and its residents. He once closed down the restaurant to host a wedding of one of the residents.
New Life Home "gave what they could" in payment, which isn't much.
Rosado said it costs about $45,000 a month to operate the program for 16 families at a time, and they do it all without government assistance — not even food stamps or subsidies for their residents.
"We want them off the system so they can work, grow and be independent," said Rosado, explaining that many of the residents come from families who have survived on welfare programs for generations.
All of the funding comes from individuals and businesses, like Piccola Italia, who believe in what they are doing.
"It's wonderful to have the community help us," Rosado said.
After catching the Thanksgiving Day football game between his alma mater East Boston High School and South Boston High School (an annual game he hasn't missed in more than 30 years), Paolini will skip Thanksgiving dinner with his own family to make sure the New Life Home family has everything they need. The women and staff will bring their own food, and at Paolini's insistence, use Piccola Italia's dinnerware rather than the paper and plastic they had originally planned on.
"After the game, I'm going to come back here and be the personal dishwasher," he said, explaining that he thinks it's just a small act of service. "I truly believe you should try and be a good person while you're on earth."
He is certainly setting a good example for his twin 13-year-old daughters, Lorena and Fabiana, students at Saint Joseph's Junior High School.
New Life Home has a place for Thanksgiving, but the organization has many other needs, like a space large enough for the 40 families on their waiting list. If you would like to learn more, visit www.newlifehome.org. You can make a donation online or send one to P.O. Box 148, Manchester, NH 03105.
It is difficult to find someone in the business and non-profit communities who has not met Ellie Cochran. After all, that has been her job for the past nine years — making community connections for the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation. And she has done her job very well, educating hundreds of people — often one at a time — about how the foundation helps improve the quality of our life in our community, and the personal benefits of supporting it.
Cochran is retiring in a few weeks as the foundation's director of philanthropy, and I am one of many regional advisory board members she has worked with over the years who is sad to see her go. She is a wonderful friend and one of those rare people who say they love their job and really mean it.
At a small retirement celebration in Nashua last week, Cochran reminded advisory board members from the Queen and Gate cities that she won't really stop working. "I just won't get paid anymore," she quipped. And she really means it. I can't wait to see what she does next.
NH365.ORG Events of the Week
Nothing will get you in the holiday mood like "The Nutcracker," and we certainly have our pick of performances in the city over the next three weekends.
It all starts this weekend with the Southern New Hampshire Dance Theater's Nutcracker performances at The Palace Theatre, which will be accompanied by a live orchestra. They are Friday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 11 a.m., 4 and 7 p.m., and Sunday at 1 and 4:30 p.m. Tickets range from $15 to $45.Dance Visions Network will present its Nutcracker performance at Saint Anselm College's Dana Center Sunday, Dec. 8, at 1 and 6 p.m. Tickets are $16 in advance and $17 at the door.
Finally, Ballet Misha brings its Nutcracker performance to the Dana Center Saturday, Dec. 14, at 1 and 7 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 15 at 1 p.m. Tickets are $18 in advance and $20 at the door.
For more information on these, and many other Nutcracker performances around the region, visit www.NH365.ORG.
If you have an interesting item for Scene in Manchester, write to Scene@UnionLeader.com.