Letters: Belfast Soup Kitchen Board of Directors

Belfast Soup Kitchen is building a new home

Fri, 05/17/2019 - 2:45pm

Story Location:
29 Belmont Avenue
Belfast, ME
United States

BELFAST — The Belfast Soup Kitchen Board of Directors has started construction on a new home for the Belfast Soup Kitchen at 29 Belmont Ave, Belfast. Completion is anticipated by January of 2020.

The BSK is very fortunate to have 2A Architects of Rockport, Gartley & Dorsky Engineering and Surveying of Camden, and Ransom Consulting of Portland as generous and committed development partners in
this project. The BSK has chosen Maine Coast Construction (MCC) of Camden, as the lead contractor.

The City of Belfast, Ransom Environmental, and the Maine Department of Environmental Protection were very supportive in providing a remediation plan for work on the site, with a large grant pledged from state EPA funding to support the Plan implementation. This was crucial to the development of this land, bringing a Brown Field site back into a valuable public use.

The 3400-square foot building is a custom design that will provide a permanent home, with a commercial kitchen, food storage facilities, serving area, and space to implement and expand their mission to “Feed the Hungry” in Waldo county. Planned space will enable cooperation with other Belfast service groups for programs such as health screenings, adult literacy, and nutrition education.

The new building design criteria are a high degree of energy efficiency, a choice of materials and features that insure low maintenance for decades, and great operational ergonomics. This new building will insure financial security of the BSK with equity and low operating expense.

The BSK has a long history of service to the people in Belfast and surrounding communities in Waldo County. It started as, and remains, almost completely a volunteer organization whose mission is to feed the hungry. The BSK was started (and named) as an outreach program of St Francis church in Belfast.

When the church could no longer fund its activities, its imminent closing prompted a group to form a board of directors and solicit community support for its continuation as an independent organization. It was organized as a nonprofit 501c(3) charitable organization in 2010. The need, as evidenced by the numbers of guests and meals served, continued to grow.

The BSK is open 5 days/week, 12 months/year, and serves all who come from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. for a coffee hour, followed by a nutritious hot lunch, including take home bags of produce and baked goods.

In the last three years (2016 to 2018) the BSK served 20,000 meals or more each year. In 2019 this trend has continued, and the numbers of daily guests have increased from an average of 60 to a peak of 90+.

Our guests include (increasingly) the working poor, senior citizens, veterans, the unemployed, working poor, mentally and physically handicapped, and a few homeless: those without other recourse.

The daily operation of the BSK is still dependent on dedicated volunteers and two paid staff for all of the cooking, cleaning, and food gathering. The partnership with Good Shepherd Food Bank as the source and coordinator of food materials has been essential.

The BSK is now operating from a leased facility in Renys Plaza in Belfast, which provides substantial space that accommodates the increased numbers of guests while the permanent home is constructed. The decision, and leap of faith in our supportive community, to attempt the very challenging step of a new building was the evolution of a search for a new home over more than 4 years.

The BSK board was faced with a need for a home of sufficient size, properly zoned for the use, and in a location accessible by the guests. The cost of leased space has continued to rise rapidly in Belfast, and that cost is the major factor in operating expense. The stock of suitable existing buildings was very limited, and would require costly renovation and installation of a commercial kitchen. There were no good ready solutions. This led to the purchase of land and new building construction.

The purchase of the land at 29 Belmont Avenue was made possible by a large individual donation. An additional large donation, with individual and business contributions and grants, permitted the start of construction. The City of Belfast has been very supportive in the planning and permitting process. In a highly unusual show of support for the non-profit BSK, Key Bank will be a partner in the final financing, providing a bridge construction loan.

The BSK will be conducting a Capital Fundraising Campaign to furnish the new home and retire our construction loan. We know that the support of our community will make it possible to raise the money to get us to our goal!

The BSK Board of Directors is confident that the vision of building this community resource will insure the continuation and expansion of the mission for the people of Belfast and Waldo county, and will be made possible because (as demonstrated many times) “Our Community Cares.”

If you would like to make a donation either to the Capital Campaign or our ongoing Operational Fund, send: to PO Box 1153, Belfast ME. 04915. You may obtain more information at www.belfastsoupkitchen.com