By John Swinconeck, Contributing Writer
Westborough – Maria Bolf had never experienced homelessness. She said she worked all of her life, up until she underwent surgery and was unable to keep her job. Money got tight, and before long she said her family found itself choosing between paying bills and buying food.
For the last two weeks, Bolf, her husband, and three of her children have been living in a hotel room in Shrewsbury, which is a long way from their former home in Fall River. They were placed there by the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance.
“I’ve never been in a situation like this before,” said Bolf. “It's overwhelming.”
On Thanksgiving, the Bolf family and about 80 other men, women, and children, got a brief reprieve from hotel life, thanks to a dinner organized by Friends of Families In Transition (FIT) and the Corridor Nine Area Chamber of Commerce, held at the Doubletree Hotel in Westborough.
Friends of FIT provides basic needs for families who are living in hotels in Northborough, Westborough, Framingham, and Natick. The families are placed there by Transitional Assistance when shelters become overcrowded, according to Julie Stanwood, Friends of FIT director.
Friends of FIT also helps coordinate events for those families so that they may celebrate the holidays.
“When you live in a hotel room, you have a microwave to cook in and a dorm-sized refrigerator,” Standwood said. “It's not glamorous.”
Families may live in the hotels for weeks or for more than a year.
Previously, Friends of FIT would deliver Thanksgiving meals to their hotel rooms. Bringing everyone to a central location allows the families to be social, according to Stanwood.
“A lot of them are stuck in their rooms all day long,” Stanwood said. “Here, you feel like you’re part of something. It lifts your spirits and gives you a break from the four walls. We’re trying to show them that they have friends here.”
“It's wonderful what they’re doing,” said Bolf. “It's pretty amazing.”
Several local businesses contributed services and personnel, according to Corridor Nine President Barbara Clifford. Wegmans donated the day's turkeys, trimmings, and the rest of the food. Knights Airport Limousine Service donated transportation services to bring the families from their hotels to the dinner.
Hebert Candies donated gift bags for the families to take home. The DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Boston-Westborough donated its space and its staff cooked the food.
Clifford said the event gave families in transition a chance for a “freshly cooked meal” this Thanksgiving.
“It gives you a little bit of the spirit of the holidays,” said Bolf. “We’ve got to keep our spirits up.”
Stanwood said Friends of FIT plan to keep spirits high for those same families in December. A holiday party will be held for families in transition Saturday, Dec. 14 at St. Bernadette Parish in Northborough. The group is looking for donations, including toys and gift cards which will allow parents to purchase Christmas presents for their children.
For information on how to donate, call (508) 709-5519, email [email protected], or go to? FriendsOfFIT.org.
(Additional photos/Barbara Clifford)