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Warming House builds connections while feeding the community

Nov 18, 2022 | By Elizabeth Egan, '23

With many in the Greater Olean area hungry for food and friendship, more than 325 meals are served weekly at St. Bonaventure University’s Warming House. Pictured_Dan Schiffhauer and Cecelia Byrne at the Warming House

Located at 164 N. Union St. and operated by the university's Franciscan Center for Social Concern (FCSC), the Warming House offers a hot and nutritious meal six days a week with the help of student and community volunteers. It also partners with the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany’s Canticle Farm to provide fresh produce. Both takeout and dine-in options are available. 

The students who run the Warming House provide nourishment, company and support to vulnerable citizens in the Olean area. 

“This is an undergraduate experience you won’t find at very many colleges or universities,” said Alice Miller Nation, director of the FCSC. “I am awed by the quality of service, relationship-building and professionalism our students offer.”

One such student is Dan Schiffhauer, a junior finance and economics double major from East Aurora, New York, who has worked as a coordinator at the Warming House since his freshman year.

“I feel like I am helping to chip away at hunger,” said Schiffhauer. While this is an important function of a soup kitchen, Schiffhauer said there is much more to what they do. 

“There is a relationship of friendship between us and the guests. I know a lot of the guests by name and they know me by name,” Schiffhauer said.

The students receive food safety training as well as education about generational poverty and working with vulnerable populations. Most importantly, they learn how to become adaptable to a wide variety of situations. Due to inflation and the lingering effects of the pandemic, on any given day volunteers could serve between 40 to 80 meals.

Cecelia Byrne, a freshman undeclared business major from Fairport, New York, volunteers every Friday, bringing with her an expertise in baking. The Warming House serves a dessert with every meal and they strive to provide quality baked goods.

“Baking is one of my favorite hobbies.” Byrne said with a huge grin. “I just enjoy the fact that I get to bake so much for people who really appreciate it and that it’s for a good cause.”

When she isn’t rolling cookie dough, Byrne engages guests in conversations ranging from their preferred baked goods to music.

“One day a woman saw me wearing a Beatles shirt and she ended up telling me a story about her experience with them growing up in the 1960’s,” said Byrne. “She told me about how she listened to them perform at Shay stadium in real time on the radio and I just thought that was so cool because I love music.” 

Miller Nation is impressed with the dedication of the volunteers. “The students are really invested in the work they do here each day,” said Miller Nation. “They truly care about the well-being of every guest.” 

To help raise money and awareness for the Warming House and other service programs, the FCSC will host #GivingTuesdayatBonas, a one-day fundraising event on Nov. 29. The community is encouraged to visit to learn more and to make a donation.

“Putting food on the plates of people who need it most,” Schiffhauer said. “That is what your donations are going toward.”

For more information or to make a gift by phone, please contact SBU’s Advancement Services at (716) 375-2364.


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