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It wasn’t the fabulous prizes that attracted over 250 people to a fundraiser and auction for the Little Sisters of the Poor May 8, but the silent witness and dedication of those who would benefit from it. The black-tie event held at the Marriott Long Wharf Hotel on Boston’s waterfront raised more than $130,000 for the sisters, who staff the Jeanne Jugan Residence for the elderly in Somerville.
The sisters, who have cared for the elderly and needy for decades at nursing homes in Somerville and Roxbury, are not concerned with material goods or financial success. Following the example of their foundress, Blessed Jeanne Jugan, they often rely on the goodness of others for even basic necessities such as food.
Therefore, they never expected the onslaught of goods donated for the fundraiser’s auction, the large number of people who spent hundreds of dollars to attend or the time and effort that many exhibited to make the event possible.
Chief among those who organized the fundraiser was William Raftery, vice president of global financial services for the information storage and management company, EMC. He began serving on the sisters’ advisory board 18 months ago and saw that the nursing home, which he said is funded by public donations and requires approximately $2 million per year to operate, was “running a deficit.”
Raftery, whose aunt, Sister Emilie Raftery, LSP, belongs to the order, was inspired to help them financially because of their “unselfish” care for the aged. Over 100 people live at the Jeanne Jugan Residence home.
"They are an inspiration to me and to anyone who crosses their path," he said.
"They work around the clock their entire lives to support people in need," Raftery said of the sisters. "They are the most unselfish people on earth, they are the happiest people you've ever met and they never complain."
Last November, he set to work “getting as many prizes as possible” for the fundraiser. Dozens of sports tickets and autographed paraphernalia were donated for the auction, including luxury box seats for a Red Sox game, clubs seats for a Patriots game, two Patriots helmets signed by quarterback Tom Brady and a Bruins jersey signed by former Bruins player Cam Neely.
Even the floral centerpieces and the services of the band were donated, he said. With help from his co-workers and family, Raftery obtained addresses and mailed invitations to about 350 people.
Ultimately, approximately 270 attended, including Archbishop Seán P. O’Malley, who gave the blessing before the meal. One of the archbishop’s first public visits with in the archdiocese following his July 2003 installation was to the Jeanne Jugan Residence in honor of the 25th anniversary at the facility.
The sisters are “very grateful” for the turnout, Raftery said, commending those who came to support the sisters.
"It was absolutely out of this world," he continued. "The response was overwhelming."
The Little Sisters of the Poor credit Raftery with the fundraiser’s success.
"Bill [Raftery] deserves to go to the head of the class for the work he did with us," exclaimed Sister Beatrice Scully, LSP, who attended the fundraiser with five other sisters from her congregation and gave a brief address at the event.
Sister Beatrice, who described herself as the congregation’s “community beggar” because she solicits fresh produce for the Little Sisters of the Poor from local vendors, said that the sisters “reach out to the community for all of [their] needs because the foundress begged for what she needed.”
Sister Beatrice and the other sisters were overjoyed that so many people responded to their invitation and came to affirm their mission of service to the elderly. She said that a portion of the money raised will go into a general account for the nursing home and the rest will be set aside for “special projects involving the day to day needs of our elderly, which are many.”
The fundraiser “was a beautiful manifestation of the people’s appreciation for the work of God and the years of day to day service of the Little Sisters of the Poor to our senior brothers and sisters,” Sister Beatrice said humbly. “I hope they all realize the impact that they had.”