We had cared for Dennis for years; in his cardboard box under a loading dock at the Wise Potato Chip factory in South Boston, in the hospital, in Barbara McInnis House and finally in housing. Dennis struggled with mental illness and alcoholism. He suffered the usual ravages of the street: frostbite, fractures, and a very deep sense of worthlessness. His life was filled with pain.
He had, like many other homeless patients, called us his “family” and listed us as next-of-kin in all of his diverse medical records and housing applications. Like many families, our relationship with Dennis was not always easy. But, with the constant support of his medical team and the staff at the Barbara McInnis House, Dennis moved into his own apartment in the summer of 2008.
On August 4, 2009, at much too young an age, Dennis passed away. He was laid to rest in a paupers’ field. We know he is finally at peace, and he will always have a place in our family.
On November 21, 2009, we received a poignant and unexpected bequest of several thousand dollars from Dennis Buff. The startling and ironic surprise of his gift ran quickly and deeply through all who are part of our organization. He is the first patient to ever leave a bequest to BHCHP and only the second donor (that we know of) who has left a bequest to our organization in our 25-year history.
Dennis’s bequest reminds us that:
- We are fortunate to serve men and women like him.
- We can never give up on even our most troubled patients.
- We are, in the fullest sense, family for many of the men and women we serve.
- One does not have to be wealthy to make a bequest of enduring importance.
- Without that support, men and women like Dennis would live and die with neither care nor hope.
On August 10, 2010, shortly after the first anniversary of his death, the Board of Directors of Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program created the Dennis Buff Bequest Society to honor his memory and to acknowledge his generosity forever as a guiding inspiration for others.