David Andrews could feel the heat in the kitchen at Abby's House, a Worcester nonprofit that provides shelter, housing, advocacy and support services for women.
The organization is one of the New England Patriots Foundation and Bank of America's 2021 "Community Captains," and the center was there to help cook and serve breakfast in celebration of National Pancake Day on Tuesday. All the cooking shows he watches in his spare time didn't prepare him to work the grill under the spotlight, though. His wife is the pancake chef at home, he admitted, after flipping his flapjack prematurely and sampling the resulting crumbs.
Even if he felt more comfortable preparing bacon and sausage, more important to him was being at the New England Patriots Foundation's first in-person event since the COVID-19 pandemic began. And once chef Maura Stevens got him the right spatula things got easier.
"I think there was some pressure," the food and nutrition services coordinator said, referencing all the cameras and media in her kitchen. "Also, he had the wrong spatula, for sure."
Mattie Vance, who has worked at Abby's House in various roles for 25 years, gave him credit.
"He did terrific," she said. "I'd be nervous, I know he was."
But as Andrews noted when it was all said and done, flipping pancakes – or playing football, for that matter – is nothing compared to what some of the women at Abby's House have been through.
"You're very fortunate to be in the NFL, and we have different things that go on in our lives too, but just how fortunate we are and blessed," Andrews said.
"And to see some of these women and how strong they are and how tough they are – people look at us and think that about us. But they're doing a lot harder things and tougher things than we are."
Abby's House, founded in 1976, was one of the United States' first shelters for women.
Their work helping women experiencing homelessness and dealing with trauma only became more vital during the pandemic – which worsened some of these issues and increased the need for advocacy and safe, supportive housing.
"The pandemic has been very challenging, and it has been for so many people," Stephanie Page, executive director of Abby's House, said.
"The women at Abby's House, many have histories of trauma. And of course, homelessness itself is traumatic and they've been isolated. It's just more challenging. We have been here on site with the women since the beginning of the pandemic so that they have people to connect to and to try to overcome some of those new barriers that have come up in accessing services and getting support for what their needs are."
Patriots captain David Andrews cooked and served pancakes to women at Abby's House in Worcester on National Pancake day, on Tuesday, March 1, 2022. Abby's House has provided shelter and affordable housing to homeless and battered women since 1976.
The goal for Abby's House is to help each woman, with or without children, realize her own aspirations, achieve goals, and access resources to live an independent life with hope and dignity.
In order to do so to the best of their ability, Abby's House is funded entirely through individual contributions from the community and fundraising. Being named a 2021 Community Captain has allowed the organization to strengthen its impact.
"Abby's made the decision to remain independent from government funding so that we did not have to be restricted by the requirements of funding; because we believe each one should make her own choice for her life and we want to help each person do what's right for them," Page said.
"Some women are staying with us a short amount of time and some people are longer and their journeys all look different. Being a Community Captain with the Patriots Foundation and Bank of America -- it really has allowed us to elevate Abby's House. And the more we can elevate ourselves and people can hear about what Abby's does the more that we can expand our mission and help. It's incredibly important what happened today with David."
Abby's House received a $50,000 donation from the Patriots Foundation when the nonprofit was selected for the initiative, but Andrews himself contributed $10,000 to buy holiday gifts for women and children being served by Abby's House.
Months later, the center was able to personally serve breakfast to some of the women he helped.
"When I got here -- football and winning -- those were number one. But 1A and 1B is getting out in the community and serving. It really starts with the Kraft family and everything they've done. That really sets the tempo," Andrews said.
"I think anybody can give back and do different things. It doesn't have to be money, just time. Obviously, money is great. The world can't live without it. But sometimes just something as little as just putting a smile on someone's face that might on a micro-scale might be a lot bigger."
Seeing those smiles in real life was a welcome change with how much has gone virtual.
"It's refreshing, you know? I think Zoom calls and things like that, we all made it work, right? And did the best we could with what we were given," Andrews said. "But being out and physically seeing somebody, I think, is really important."
Page knows how contributions from Andrews and the Patriots Foundation impact Abby's House behind-the-scenes, and finally, got to see the impact in person.
"The women were so touched," Page said.
"I especially loved the photos some of them were taking with David and sending to their children or to their parents. And just being recognized by somebody like David just means a lot to them. They don't get these. They have very difficult lives, many of the women, so they don't get moments like this too often. So they're very special. We all need to be connected to each other, and David did that for us today. He brought the women together."
To learn more about Abby's House and their work in the community visit abbyshouse.org.