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Haley House

Memory of Haley Inspires Philanthropic Effort

For the Heights

Published: Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01

The delectable Haley House chocolate chip cookies available in Boston College dining halls are certainly no hidden secret to BC students. However, the story behind the cookies, and even behind the Haley House itself, may be less familiar to the fans of these popular baked goods. The purpose of Haley House's cookies is not just to provide a sweet chocolaty treat to students after a long day of classes. Rather, the cookies are important because their proceeds support the many social justice programs and initiatives that the House has established over its impressive 40-year history.

The story of Haley House begins in 1966 with John and Kathe McKenna, a couple inspired by activists of their day and moved to action by the social, economical, and racial injustice that was so prevalent in the South End of Boston at the time. Beginning humbly in a small, rented apartment on Upton Street, the McKennas took in homeless and destitute men and offered them not only a warm meal, but also a place to sleep.

Later, a generous financial gift enabled the couple to purchase 23 Dartmouth Street, continuing their efforts and expanding their outreach. In honor of Leo Haley, a twenty-four year old activist and BC graduate, the new location received the name "Haley House."

On a late night in 1966, Haley was driving home when, led by compassion, he stopped to help a man lying in the road. He agreed to give him a ride home, but soon after, the man revealed a knife, robbed him, and threatened Haley's life. Although Haley survived the attack and identified the man to the authorities, the fatigue and stress from the night took a toll on his heart, which was already vulnerable due to preexisting conditions. The next day, Haley, exhausted, was driving when he collapsed, crashed, and died instantly.

Personally, the McKennas and the volunteers at Dartmouth Street knew little of Haley, but his final acts and his Good Samaritan spirit inspired them to name the Haley House in his honor. Mirroring Haley's selfless character, Haley House first established itself as a soup kitchen, serving guests—sometimes more than a hundred at a time—coffee, bread, and soup. For six days a week, from 7 a.m. until 9 p.m., Haley House opened its doors and welcomed those in need.

Since then, the House has grown and has founded more programs, addressing an array of different issues to respond to the needs of the homeless. In 1979, they created a housing program that is both affordable and permanent, and in 1983, the Haley House started Noonday Farm in Winchendon Springs, Mass. This organic farm supplies fresh produce and food to the Haley House Soup Kitchen, the Haley House Bakery Cafe, and local families who are without food. It also serves as a learning center and a living example of organic and sustainable farming.

Next, in 1996, a bakery-training program was realized, followed by the addition of the previously—mentioned Haley House Bakery Cafe in 2005. The bakery seeks to promote the financial independence of the community by offering on-the-job training; it provides young people with an invaluable education in homemade, healthy cooking. The Bakery Cafe is also where the delicious chocolate chip indulgences are baked.

Though Haley House has started a diverse array of programs to combat different and ever-changing issues, one thing remains constant in every one of the House's efforts: their commitment to build and foster a caring community based on personal relationships. They use organic produce, baked goods, and hot meals as vehicles to bring people together, creating lasting relationships and changing lives.

The sale of Haley House's cookies supports not only its extensive history, but also its bright future. But who could have known the incredible significance behind an average chocolate chip cookie? When BC students pick up a Haley House cookie, they hold a great deal of power. They are providing a desperate homeless man with a hot cup of coffee and shelter from Boston's frigid winters. They are supporting the growth of organic fruits and vegetables to nourish a family that is unable to put a meal on the table. They are enabling a countless number of individuals to gain economic independence and, in turn, live a fulfilling life. They are changing the world, one chocolate morsel of goodness at a time.

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