Paul and Mary Feeney—and The Haven
In 1983, Mary and Paul Feeney moved to the Upper Valley to become the live-in host couple at the Haven family shelter. They replaced Donna and Korty Church, who had spent two years in that role—the typical turnover for resident shelter directors. Mary and Paul, however, were anything but typical. They spent the next 23 years guiding hundreds of individuals from despair to hope, with a mix of authentic welcome, minestrone soup, faith, connections to jobs and resources, and tough love. They did this while raising two children in a tiny apartment attached to the shelter, where they were on duty 24 hours a day.
Paul once compared living at the Haven to “living in a fire station. You can take care of normal operations but you always have to be ready for an emergency.” In 1988, Paul took a job with SEVCA, reducing his position at the shelter to associate director. Mary stepped up as full-time director. She was more than up to the task.
“Mary Feeney was a force to be reckoned with,” says Suzanne Stofflet, a fundraising consultant who served as a board member and interim executive director. “I’ve never met anyone quite like her.” Mary was a fierce advocate who also maintained firm boundaries with guests. And yet she wasn’t above breaking the rules. “It is better to give a bag of groceries in error to ten people who don’t really need it than to mistakenly refuse one person who is truly hungry,”¹ she once told Suzanne.
Another Maryism: “Always try to give from a place of gratitude and abundance.” Mary and Paul modeled that behavior in their long association with the Haven, where they lived until 2006. Even once they moved from Hartford Avenue into a place of their own, Mary continued to work as the adult shelter director until her retirement in 2014.
For the Feeneys, the Haven was a labor of love. But to them, it was more than work. It was a ministry. In a publication celebrating her retirement, Mary calls the Haven “a continuously ongoing miracle…And, wherever we happened to be in our history, the right people, with just the talents needed for the time, always showed up to lead us forward in our mission.”
¹Suzanne Stofflet. “There’s a Profound Connection Between Giving and Receiving.” Op-ed, Valley News, 12 November, 2012.
The Haven Through 40 Years
The Haven will commemorate its four decades of service to the region by releasing 40 stories of people, events, ideas, and services fundamental to our mission. We will be releasing these stories weekly, so check back often.