The Friendly Kitchen seeks to provide a meal for the hungry in a warm and caring non-discriminating environment through the coordination of community volunteer resources. Our story began in 1980.
The Friendly Kitchen has been feeding the homeless since 1980. Inspired by a speaker from the St. Vincent dePaul Society, Pauline Bell applied for and received a grant of $10,000 from Catholic Charities and on October 14, 1980, The Friendly Kitchen first opened its doors. That first night, Pauline served vegetable soup and sandwiches to four guests.
The Friendly Kitchen was named for its first home in the Friendly Club, a community activity center on South Main Street. For many years, volunteer Jim Ceriello, a retired police officer, coordinated supplies and oversaw the dining room, which served dinner three nights a week.
From 1982 through 1999, The Friendly Kitchen operated for two hours a day out of the Riverbend building on North State Street. Clients grew to an average of 35 a night and received five meals a week. Throughout these years, the supplies were housed in limited space at St. Peter’s Church.
Early in 1999, at the urging of recently-appointed Board President Hope Zanes Butterworth, the board mustered up the financial courage and purchased a lovely old home located behind the Merrimack County Court House, at 14 Montgomery Street, a short walk from downtown Concord.
With the help of many individuals, businesses, service organizations, and Steve Sarabia, a retired contractor, who led a construction crew supplied by the State’s minimum security unit, The Friendly Kitchen opened the doors to its own home on October 23, 1999 – nineteen years and one week after its opening in 1980.
With the new opportunities (food and supplies in-house, access to a more functional facility and an expanded volunteer roster) The Friendly Kitchen began serving dinner seven days a week, added weekend breakfasts and mid-afternoon snacks, and added a winter weekday breakfast schedule to coincide with the church-based winter homeless shelters.
Thanks to several designated capital gifts, the Friendly Kitchen was able to retire its mortage in June 2004, ten years ahead of schedule. To celebrate this milestone, the building was named “Hope House” to honor Hope Butterworth’s vision, support, and tireless volunteer spirit. The small kitchen is now “Polly’s Pantry” for its founder.
We operated for 12 years at Hope House, on Montgomery Street in Concord. But on Saturday morning, April 30, 2011, a fire caused considerable damage to The Friendly Kitchen. We first hoped we could rebuild on Montgomery Street, but circumstances forced us to seek a new home.
We began looking at land and existing buildings that might suit our unique needs. In the meantime, thanks to the generosity of local churches, we never missed serving a single meal. The Friendly Kitchen was hosted by first Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, then St. Peter Parish, and finally at Christ the King Parish. Thank you Rev. Richard Roberge, the pastor of Christ the King Parish and all parishioners, for your generosity in hosting The Friendly Kitchen for the past year and a half.
In Spring 2012, The Friendly Kitchen received approval from the City of Concord to construct a new building on South Commercial Street, just off Interstate 393, in Concord. We broke ground on July 12, 2012 and served our first meal in the new building on December 27, 2012.
Our Capital Campaign to rebuild, Rising From the Ashes, was launched in August 2012. Community support of The Friendly Kitchen’s campaign to rebuild included named sponsorships and recognition on the dining room wall. The Capitol Campaign was highly successful, allowing us to complete our new home on time and on budget. The Lincoln Financial Foundation contributed $100,000 and named the Dining Room to honor its employees who are volunteers.
The Friendly Kitchen’s rebuilding project also received a $500,000 federal Community Development Block Grant and a $300,000 tax credit grant from the state’s Community Development Finance Authority.
The new building is about 5,800 SF and can feed 120 people. The new dining room seats 120 people, and the building is equipped with a large kitchen, food pantry, office and storage space and an outdoor eating area. The generosity of many, many donors and volunteers who contributed time, money, and equipment has made our dream come true!
Hope Butterworth burst into tears a few weeks ago when she walked into the Friendly Kitchen’s new South Commercial Street building and saw chandeliers made of spoons hanging from the ceiling.
“Don’t get me going,” the soup kitchen’s former board president warned yesterday, again holding back tears as she and other board members invited the public into their new building for the first time.
The Friendly Kitchen held an open house yesterday, nearly 20 months after the Friendly Kitchen’s Montgomery Street building was badly damaged by a fire and 150 days after construction began on a new building. Volunteers will begin serving meals from the new facility next week.
“This is obviously more than just a magnificent facility,” Gov. John Lynch told the crowd gathered in the soup kitchen’s new dining room yesterday afternoon. “It’s really an opportunity. The opportunity to help those who are hungry and the opportunity to help those who are homeless. It reflects all that’s so special about Concord and New Hampshire, where people really rally around, they come together, they help those most in need.”
The new dining room seats 120 people, and the building is equipped with a large kitchen, food pantry, office and storage space and an outdoor eating area.
Yesterday was also an opportunity for the nonprofit to reflect on its growth since 1980, when former board president Polly Bell served a meal to four people. Bell said she gasped when she walked into the South Commercial Street building for the first time yesterday, and was especially in awe of its storage space.
Board President Phil Wallingford said the new building is ideal for the soup kitchen, which serves about 100 people for dinner each night.
The Friendly Kitchen’s rebuilding effort has faced challenges since April 2011; neighbors to the old Montgomery Street building opposed plans to rebuild on the same site and the group has served meals from three local churches since the fire.
“We faced a tragedy that Saturday morning and we said we were going to rebuild,” Concord Mayor Jim Bouley told the audience gathered yesterday. “We did exactly what we said we were going to do. So congratulations to the board of the kitchen, to the entire community. You have built a wonderful home for those who need in our community. . . and we are all blessed for what has occurred.”
But there is still work to be done, Wallingford said yesterday as crowds and live music filled the new building. The board still needs to raise about $250,000 to pay for the project, he said, and training and test runs are needed before the new kitchen is ready for a large crowd.
“For me, it’s a milestone, it’s not the end,” Wallingford said. “Next we have to make sure that everything is running smoothly, that people know how to use the kitchen, that people know how to get here and leave, and how to operate all the new appliances. . . . So there will be a process that will take several months to figure that out. That’s going to have its challenges.”
Merrimack County Savings Bank provided loans to allow construction to move forward while fundraising continued. Yesterday, Wallingford publicly thanked the bank and Don Bennert, senior vice president in commercial loans. The new building’s kitchen is named for the bank.
“We . . . are thrilled to be at this historic event where the fortitude of so many is coming to fruition,” Bennert said.
Jonathan Halle of Warren Street Architects donated his time to design the building, and Cobb Hill Construction completed the work.
The Friendly Kitchen received a $100,000 donation from Lincoln Financial Foundation last year to bolster the rebuilding campaign, and Wallingford said yesterday that the new building’s dining room is named after the company. Byron Champlin, a Concord-based program officer for Lincoln Financial, called the new building a “rebirth” for the Friendly Kitchen.
The project also received a $500,000 federal Community Development Block Grant and a $300,000 tax credit grant from the state’s Community Development Finance Authority for the project. As part of ongoing fundraising efforts, Wallingford said the nonprofit still needs to sell some of its tax credits.
Butterworth, whom Wallingford called the “face, voice and heart” of the organization, summarized the emotion of the day as she spoke to the crowd.
“We have found what we have lost and it is more magnificent than is believable,” she said.