Concord Monitor article by Ben Leubsdorf / Monitor staff
October 6, 2011
The Friendly Kitchen announced a $100,000 donation from the Lincoln Financial Foundation yesterday, the largest gift in the soup kitchen's history as the nonprofit looks to rebuild after a fire.
With the donation, the group has raised more than $300,000 since the April 30 fire that partially gutted its building at 14 Montgomery St., said Phil Wallingford, president of the kitchen's board of directors. In addition, he said the group received more than $200,000 from its insurer and is working out the details of an application for a federal Community Development Block Grant.
"We are substantially along the way towards what we think a budget will be, although we are still not final in terms of where we're going to locate and what the final budget numbers are going to be," Wallingford said.
Byron Champlin, Lincoln Financial Group's Concord-based program officer said the gift unveiled yesterday might inspire others to contribute to the effort.
"We're hoping that, through our leadership gift, we will inspire other businesses in the greater Concord region as well as other individuals to step forward and to also support the Friendly Kitchen's effort to rebuild and to be back and running in their own facility by sometime this spring," Champlin said.
The Friendly Kitchen, the city's only soup kitchen, operated out of the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church after the fire, then moved to St. Peter's Church, where the gift was announced at a news conference yesterday. It plans to relocate to Sacred Heart Church this month.
Within weeks of the fire, the group unveiled a plan to rebuild on Montgomery Street, where it had served meals to the needy since 1999. But the project required several variances from the city zoning board, and the kitchen's neighbors raised objections to the size of the proposed building and complained about long-standing noise and safety issues.
The threat of a legal challenge to any zoning approval, which likely would have tied the project up in court for years, led the kitchen to abandon its plan to rebuild on Montgomery Street and instead seek a new permanent home.
Wallingford said yesterday he couldn't say where they're looking. The kitchen had considered the building at 10 Prince St., but the city government moved first to buy it as a new home for the Human Services Department.
"We are negotiating with a couple of different property owners, and that's as much as I can tell you." Wallingford said. "We really can't disclose more while these negotiations are going on, for obvious reasons. And we hope to have something soon."
Pamela Walsh, a member of the kitchen's board, said a formal capital campaign will likely be launched once the group has identified a new location and firmed up how much it will cost to rebuild.