Volunteers of the Year: Fran and Bob Mogelnicki

    Bob and Fran spent 52 years living out a love story: love for each other and for others in need. When Bob retired from Aetna and Fran from running Miss Frances’ School of Dance, Tabor House fortunately became an object of their affection.
     Over the last 14 years, the inseparable duo helped sustain our mission to improve the lives of homeless men with HIV/AIDS. They are the winners of this year's Dyson Family Award for outstanding voluntary services to Tabor House. (In photo, Loretta Dyson pays tribute to Fran at the Tabor With a Twist gala in September.)
     It began when a friend invited Bob and Fran to volunteer at the Tabor House Giant Tag Sale, always held in the hottest week of the hottest month of the summer – July. Perhaps they were used to the weather because of their frequent trips to Florida, because they didn’t hesitate.
     Bob and Fran did whatever was asked to make the Tag Sale a success: open boxes, unwrap donations, arrange items by type and marketability, and sell them. They even stayed to clean up when it was over.
They also helped design and arrange baskets of silent-auction items that became an opening night attraction at the Tag Sale. Fran and Bob got so good at making irresistible auction-item baskets that Tabor House pleaded with them to organize the auction items at our galas too. And, of course, they said yes.
     Just before a Tag Sale or Tabor House gala, the living room of Bob and Fran’s Wethersfield home is packed with items, arrayed in no particular order. Fran finds the right combinations for the baskets while Bob prepares the bid sheets.
     Bob and Fran loved helping others and cherished volunteering together, but each in an individually distinctive style. Bob wasn’t afraid of hard work, but during that long week before the Tag Sale, he was the first to take a coffee break. “Why not?” he would respond at the first suggestion to grab a cup. Bob also joked that he would rather be a bouncer or work security than “deal with people” as they haggled over prices and paid.
     Fran, however, delighted in customer service and making sales. Volunteers still talk about the time a woman came to the Tag Sale with her poodle. Rather than turn her away because this was no place for a dog, Fran sat her down in the boutique section and shopped for her. Every year, a woman visits the Tag Sale in search of hair clips. All during the set-up week, Fran looks for hair clips and sets them aside for that woman.
     Fran also tries to pump up Tabor House earnings by pricing boutique items higher than others think possible. When she overreaches, volunteers have been known to offer clandestine discounts.
     As years went by, Bob would tell Fran, “This has to be the last year for Tag Sale.” Fran would say, “Of course, Bob,” and promptly sign them up again. Sadly for us all, the 2012 Tag Sale was Bob’s last one. A few weeks before this year’s event, Bob passed away after a short illness.
     Fran carried on for the both of them, enlisting their son, Robert, to volunteer at the Tag Sale during his visit from California to comfort her after Bob’s passing. And for the Tabor With a Twist gala, Fran assembled the auction baskets and the friend who invited them to volunteer for Tabor House 14 years ago filled in for Bob on the bid sheets.
     We at Tabor House like to think that in Fran and Bob we have met angels disguised as everyday people who’ve led extraordinary lives. We know Bob is looking down, a cup of coffee in hand, saying, “Not bad.” And Fran has already signed up for next year’s Tag Sale.