According to the New York Times, Sister Elisabeth Anne has visited the Hunts Point Produce Market in the Bronx every Wednesday for the past 35 years. The 76-year-old squeezes fruit and greets the workers as she shops for food to prepare at the Queen of Peace Residence in Queens Village, where she lives and works. There is one difference to this shopping though: Sister Elisabeth Anne does not pay for the food. Instead, she solicits donations from the businesses that sell their goods at the market.
She remembers the first time, in 1979, she was told to ask for the generosity of others. “To go out and be a beggar was the worst thing you could ever ask me to do,” she said. “I cried my heart out for two weeks.”
She is now a regular and rarely misses a trip to the market, where she has become a favorite. “It’s got a bad rap, it’s tough down here, it’s the Bronx,” said one of the marketing directors for D’Arrigo Brother’s Company of New York, “but she makes people rethink what kind of community it is. Everybody loves dealing with her.”
Donations from businesses, parishes, and foundations help to keep the Queen of Peace Residence going. The home shelters and feeds 85 low-income older adults and 19 nuns, who also live in the building serving the residents. It is one of 197 homes around the world run by the Little Sisters of the Poor, an order whose mission is to support the elderly poor.
Resident Winnie Valcancick, 78, moved in recently and is very grateful to have a safe and friendly environment to live in. “It’s very scary as you get older and you’re not financially equipped to pay the rents that New Yorkers have to pay,” she said.
As Sister Elisabeth Anne walks around the dining room, she smiles and says she has learned to love her role. “I’m the last on the ladder; I’m the lowest,” she said. “I’m the director of nothing except my life. Beggar. That’s my title.”