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Healthy recipe for Nashua soup kitchen

Opportunities like this don’t come along every day for the Nashua Soup Kitchen & Shelter.

They have a chance to parlay small donations from ordinary people into some big money that can make a real difference.

In case you missed the story in the Neighbors section of The Sunday Telegraph and June Lemen’s column in Tuesday’s Telegraph, two anonymous donors have made a promise: If the Nashua Soup Kitchen can raise $150,000 from the community by the end of 2013, these two donors will contribute another $100,000 – bringing the total donation to $250,000.

That money – part of a $2 million capital campaign now in its final stages called “Breaking Bread, Breaking Ground” – will help renovate the former Veterans of Foreign Wars Hall on Quincy Street, which the shelter has purchased for its new quarters.

The need is great. The current location on Chestnut Street is an old, narrow apartment building.

“We have long known that our current space is inadequate,” Executive Director Lisa Christie said. “It’s an old apartment house with a tiny kitchen, small rooms and steep stairs.

People who come by often have to wait in line on the street in all kinds of weather.

The soup kitchen serves meals and has a food pantry where people can get food to prepare at home. Fresh produce is available daily.

They serve an average of 85 people for breakfast each day, and 125 who come to dinner. That number rises as the end of the month grows near and people begin to see their food stamp benefits dwindle. “We’ve served as many as 200 people,” Christie said.

They’re giving out 36 percent more food than they did just two years ago, but that only tells part of the story.

Christie said one of the trends is that they’ve seen more and more families over the last few years – to the point where they’ve set aside 4-5 p.m. each day just to feed families with children. In a new building, she said, families will have their own dining area and won’t be limited to just one hour per night.

That alone seems like enough to make the whole venture worthwhile.

Nashua has always been very generous during the soup kitchen’s 32-year history.

“Over 70 percent of our budget has always been from private contributions,” Christie said.

It’s probably safe to assume that the soup kitchen’s clientele isn’t going to shrink anytime soon, and now, thanks to a pair of anonymous donors, the soup kitchen has a recipe to turn small donations into much larger ones and a menu for long term success.

The new building that shelter officials hope to move into sometime next year is three times the size of the current space. That means they’ll be able to bring many of their programs under one roof, serve more people with greater efficiency and, perhaps most important of all, serve them with more dignity.

In other words, no more waiting in line on the street.

Like we said, opportunities like that don’t come along every day for the Nashua Soup Kitchen & Shelter. But opportunities to help like this don’t come along every day for the rest of us, either.

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