Increased use spurs search for new soup kitchen site

Board aims to move by fall, seeks 2,500-square-foot space
By Ethan Andrews | Jul 16, 2015
File photo by: Hannah Holden Belfast Soup Kitchen, pictured here in June, may move within three months, according to a representative of the meal service center.

Belfast — After 13 years in its current location, the Belfast Soup Kitchen is looking for a new, bigger home, and in short order.

The charity is in the process of negotiating an early end to its long-term lease, according to board chairman Bill Webb. At the same time, the board is looking for a larger space to move into sometime in the next three months.

Webb said there have been some issues with noise and congestion because of where the soup kitchen is located in the building, but no complaints that he was aware of. The bigger issue, he said, is that more people are using the services and there is not enough space.

"As one of our board members said, our success has been our demise," he said Monday.

The soup kitchen serves a midday meal five days a week to between 40 and 70 people. The two full-time workers and numerous volunteers also host a morning "coffee club" and distribute fresh produce and other groceries donated by Hannaford supermarket and local farms.

The soup kitchen started as a project of St. Francis of Assisi Church and operated from a building on High Street before moving to the Belfast Center 2002. In 2010 the kitchen nearly closed after a drop in donations coming through the church, but bounced back and incorporated later that year as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.

Under former board chairman Alex Allmayer-Beck, the dining room was made over in the spirit of a bistro. The idea was to make visitors feel more at home and to encourage socializing. The coffee club was conceived in the same spirit. There was talk of opening a homeless shelter at one point.

Building owner Joe Losquadro said there has been a good working relationship between the building and the soup kitchen, but said the soup kitchen ultimately grew beyond the mission described in its lease.

"There's not a convenient option to expand here," he said.

Webb said the soup kitchen needs around 2,500 square feet for its dining room, an expanded kitchen, dry storage and coolers.

"Something in town we can use year-round," he said. "A separate building or a space within a building. Hopefully, a single floor."

Webb said the soup kitchen served 12,000 individual meals last year and depends on many large and small contributions of money, food and time.

"I think it's one of those things that goes on in the background and people don't realize it, but when you put some numbers to it — It's kind of remarkable," he said. "It's pleasantly remarkable to run the operation we do based on all donated money and services."

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