By JEN CARDINES
After nine years as executive director for Bread for Life (BFL), Eldon Hafford has announced his retirement. Since taking the helm in 2007, Hafford has led BFL’s dramatic growth to meet the needs of the Southington community.
His hard work will culminate this fall with the opening of a new facility on Vermont Avenue.
“Eldon is a Southington gem who, through his hard work and passion, has ensured that no one in our town goes hungry,” said Bread for Life Board Chairman Mike Soltys. “Eldon has touched so many people and his good work has made a lasting impact in our community. We can’t thank him enough.”
Hafford said that the decision took a lot of thought, but he decided that the timing was right to step down once the new facility is opened. The director said that the new facility is only possible because of community support.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank those in the community of Southington, who have generously supported Bread for Life over the past nine years during my time as the Executive Director,” he said. “A dream has come true. Bread for Life will have one home after consolidating five separate locations.”
Former BFL chairman Bill McDougall said that he considers Hafford a great friend, and he called the Vermont Avenue project a true team effort. That is the legacy that Hafford leaves with the organization.
“I like to think we took it to a new height,” McDougall said in a BFL press release. “We changed the program, the whole team. There’s no ‘I’s just ‘we’s.”
Hafford, now 76 years old, took over Bread for Life at a critical juncture. As the economy hit its downturn, Hafford ensured that the town’s growing needs were met.
Gloria Colonero worked on the BFL board for eight of Hafford’s nine years and has partnered with him on a number of fundraisers. She credits Hafford as her mentor.
When BFL announced the search for a new director in a press release, Colonero called it “an intense job” that Hafford handled with dignity. “I just know through listening to others and seeing how he works, that he made a tremendous difference,” she said in the release.
Hafford was well-qualified for his position after a long career in the food industry. He worked as a restaurant manager, as a head chef, and as a food service director. He was the past president of Connecticut Food Service Association and owner of Eldon’s Catering. He has served on several church boards and committees.
BFL officials said that his passion will always be helping those in need.
Today, the organization provides lunch and fellowship weekdays at the mason hall. BFL also delivers daily hot meals to five senior housing communities, delivers hot meals and groceries to the homebound, offers a summer lunch program for children, and sponsors the school breakfast program.
Under Hafford’s leadership last year, over 39,000 meals were served within the community.
Southington Town Manager Garry Brumback called Hafford “a community treasure.”
“He worked tirelessly raising money and gathering food and shared with other organizations that supported his efforts,” said Brumback. “He has been a wonderful asset to our town and will be truly missed.”
The organization has already begun the search for Hafford’s replacement and is interviewing candidates.
Hafford has agreed to stay on until the new facility is open, which is anticipated later this fall. He expects to overlap his final days with the new executive director to ensure a smooth transition. After taking a winter respite, he will join the Bread for Life board of directors.
NOTE: Donna Ayer has been named as the next executive director for Bread for Life. Read more in next week’s Southington Observer.