Imagine preparing and serving 250 meals a day in a space not much bigger than your kitchen.
Now think about managing that task when duct tape holds cabinets together, the floor is rotting, counters are too low and appliances frequently die.
“But there’s never a time when dinner wasn’t served on time,” said Linda Price, Upper Room Mission kitchen supervisor, giving credit to her dedicated team of staff and volunteers.
With physical conditions rapidly deteriorating, the Upper Room Mission is proceeding with extensive renovations although it doesn’t have the remaining $115,000 for the $165,000 project.
“We can’t wait any longer with the kitchen,” said Jake Spoor, Upper Room Mission president.
“We owe it to our guests that the kitchen is in top-notch shape.”
Fundraising began two years ago and $70,000 was collected. There is also money in a rainy day account but using it for the kitchen would strip the agency of its ability to handle emergencies.
There is confidence community donors will rally.
“Money is tight and people are struggling and we understand that. We don’t want people to feel pressure if they can’t help, but if they can, it will be appreciated,” said Lisa Froom, general manager.
It’s expected renovations will begin soon and be completed by the end of March.
“It will be a restaurant-style commercial kitchen,” said Price.
There will be a double convection oven and a gas grill, while the two-basin sink will be replaced, making it easier to wash a never-ending supply of pots and pans. Distinct preparation areas will be established to prevent possible cross-contamination of food.
The project will require the kitchen being completely shut down for two or three weeks.
“We are working on a few options to still provide meals such as possibly using a mobile kitchen on site. There won’t be sit-down meals, it will be take-out,” said Froom.
Local groups interested in donating sandwiches and disposable dishes, or organizing an entire meal, can contact the mission at 250-549-1231.
The number of people served has climbed by about 30 people per meal in the last two years.
Some of the clients work and pay high rent, while others are on disability or old age pension.
Others struggle with a lack of employment, substance abuse and mental health issues. A family support system may be missing.
Besides accessing meals three times a day, all registered clients can participate in Fresh Start, which focuses on health, finances, relationships, self-esteem and life goals.
“It’s not just a soup kitchen here,” said Froom.
“People get a second chance. It’s about partnering with them. It’s not just about handing them everything.”
To donate towards the kitchen or for more information, drop by the Upper Room Mission at 3403 27th Ave. or call 25-549-1231.
“Once the community knows what we’re doing, they’ll be excited about it,” said Froom.