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.
1982 - 1999
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 7 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.
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!