The Friendly Kitchen has been feeding the hungry since 1980. With a grant of $10,000 from New Hampshire Catholic Charities, Pauline Bell and the St. Vincent De Paul Society of St. Peter’s Church opened the doors to The Friendly Kitchen on October 14, 1980. 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 three nights a week.
From 1982 to 1999, The Friendly Kitchen operated in the Riverbend Building on North State Street, serving meals five evenings a week. Supplies were housed at St. Peter’s Church and trucked across town to be prepared and served.
Early in 1999, at the urging of the recently appointed Board President Hope Zanes Butterworth, The Friendly Kitchen board purchased a house at 14 Montgomery Street. With the help of many individual 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 expanded volunteer roster – the Friendly Kitchen began serving dinner seven days a week, added weekend breakfasts and mid-afternoon snack. The Friendly Kitchen also 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 mortgage in June 2004, ten years ahead of schedule. To celebrate the milestone, the kitchen was named “Polly’s Pantry” in recognition of the Friendly Kitchen’s founder, Pauline Bell, and the building was named Hope House to honor Hope Butterworth’s vision, support and volunteer spirit.
On Saturday, April 30, 2011 a fire destroyed our home on Montgomery Street. Thanks to our supportive community and devoted volunteers, we never missed a meal. First Congregational Church, Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, South Congregational Church, St. Peter’s Church and Sacred Heart Church all prepared space for us to continue our mission while we were looking for a new home.
On December 27, 2012 we served our first meal in our new home at 2 So. Commercial Street.