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Friendly Kitchen opens doors on Commercial Street

  • Long-time board member, Hope Butterworth, left, and Polly Bell, right, founder of the Friendly Kitchen in 1980, visit with guests during the open house of the new location on South Commercial Street in Concord on Thursday evening, December 12, 2012. The <br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

    Long-time board member, Hope Butterworth, left, and Polly Bell, right, founder of the Friendly Kitchen in 1980, visit with guests during the open house of the new location on South Commercial Street in Concord on Thursday evening, December 12, 2012. The

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Guests toured the space of the new Friendly Kitchen on South Commercial Street during an open house Thursday evening, December 12, 2012. The kitchen, which serves meals to Concord's homeless population, relocated after a fire destroyed the old location on Montgomery Street. The kitchen is run by volunteers who do everything from planning the menu and cooking to serving the food and cleaning.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

    Guests toured the space of the new Friendly Kitchen on South Commercial Street during an open house Thursday evening, December 12, 2012. The kitchen, which serves meals to Concord's homeless population, relocated after a fire destroyed the old location on Montgomery Street. The kitchen is run by volunteers who do everything from planning the menu and cooking to serving the food and cleaning.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Cole Beauchemin, 13, nephew of the designer of the new Friendly Kitchen, worked with several Boy Scouts from Troop 88 to build two 500 spoon chandeliers as a service project. The chandeliers hang from the dining area of the new Friendly Kitchen, which moved to South Commercial Street in Concord after the fire at the old location on Montgomery Street.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

    Cole Beauchemin, 13, nephew of the designer of the new Friendly Kitchen, worked with several Boy Scouts from Troop 88 to build two 500 spoon chandeliers as a service project. The chandeliers hang from the dining area of the new Friendly Kitchen, which moved to South Commercial Street in Concord after the fire at the old location on Montgomery Street.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • The Rev. Richard Roberge of Christ the King Parish, visits with Polly Bell, the founder of the Friendly Kitchen in 1980, during an open house at their new location on South Commercial Street in Concord on Thursday evening, December 12, 2012.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

    The Rev. Richard Roberge of Christ the King Parish, visits with Polly Bell, the founder of the Friendly Kitchen in 1980, during an open house at their new location on South Commercial Street in Concord on Thursday evening, December 12, 2012.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Guests toured the space of the new Friendly Kitchen on South Commercial Street during an open house Thursday evening, December 12, 2012. The kitchen, which serves meals to Concord's homeless population, relocated after a fire destroyed the old location on Montgomery Street. The kitchen is run by volunteers who do everything from planning the menu and cooking to serving the food and cleaning.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

    Guests toured the space of the new Friendly Kitchen on South Commercial Street during an open house Thursday evening, December 12, 2012. The kitchen, which serves meals to Concord's homeless population, relocated after a fire destroyed the old location on Montgomery Street. The kitchen is run by volunteers who do everything from planning the menu and cooking to serving the food and cleaning.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Long-time board member, Hope Butterworth, left, and Polly Bell, right, founder of the Friendly Kitchen in 1980, visit with guests during the open house of the new location on South Commercial Street in Concord on Thursday evening, December 12, 2012. The <br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)
  • Guests toured the space of the new Friendly Kitchen on South Commercial Street during an open house Thursday evening, December 12, 2012. The kitchen, which serves meals to Concord's homeless population, relocated after a fire destroyed the old location on Montgomery Street. The kitchen is run by volunteers who do everything from planning the menu and cooking to serving the food and cleaning.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)
  • Cole Beauchemin, 13, nephew of the designer of the new Friendly Kitchen, worked with several Boy Scouts from Troop 88 to build two 500 spoon chandeliers as a service project. The chandeliers hang from the dining area of the new Friendly Kitchen, which moved to South Commercial Street in Concord after the fire at the old location on Montgomery Street.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)
  • The Rev. Richard Roberge of Christ the King Parish, visits with Polly Bell, the founder of the Friendly Kitchen in 1980, during an open house at their new location on South Commercial Street in Concord on Thursday evening, December 12, 2012.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)
  • Guests toured the space of the new Friendly Kitchen on South Commercial Street during an open house Thursday evening, December 12, 2012. The kitchen, which serves meals to Concord's homeless population, relocated after a fire destroyed the old location on Montgomery Street. The kitchen is run by volunteers who do everything from planning the menu and cooking to serving the food and cleaning.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor Staff)

Hope Butterworth burst into tears a few weeks ago when she walked into the Friendly Kitchen’s new South Commercial Street building and saw chandeliers made of spoons hanging from the ceiling.

“Don’t get me going,” the soup kitchen’s former board president warned yesterday, again holding back tears as she and other board members invited the public into their new building for the first time.

The Friendly Kitchen held an open house yesterday, nearly 20 months after the Friendly Kitchen’s Montgomery Street building was badly damaged by a fire and 150 days after construction began on a new building. Volunteers will begin serving meals from the new facility next week.

“This is obviously more than just a magnificent facility,” Gov. John Lynch told the crowd gathered in the soup kitchen’s new dining room yesterday afternoon. “It’s really an opportunity. The opportunity to help those who are hungry and the opportunity to help those who are homeless. It reflects all that’s so special about Concord and New Hampshire, where people really rally around, they come together, they help those most in need.”

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.

Yesterday was also an opportunity for the nonprofit to reflect on its growth since 1980, when former board president Polly Bell served a meal to four people. Bell said she gasped when she walked into the South Commercial Street building for the first time yesterday, and was especially in awe of its storage space.

Board President Phil Wallingford said the new building is ideal for the soup kitchen, which serves about 100 people for dinner each night.

The Friendly Kitchen’s rebuilding effort has faced challenges since April 2011; neighbors to the old Montgomery Street building opposed plans to rebuild on the same site and the group has served meals from three local churches since the fire.

“We faced a tragedy that Saturday morning and we said we were going to rebuild,” Concord Mayor Jim Bouley told the audience gathered yesterday. “We did exactly what we said we were going to do. So congratulations to the board of the kitchen, to the entire community. You have built a wonderful home for those who need in our community. . . and we are all blessed for what has occurred.”

But there is still work to be done, Wallingford said yesterday as crowds and live music filled the new building. The board still needs to raise about $250,000 to pay for the project, he said, and training and test runs are needed before the new kitchen is ready for a large crowd.

“For me, it’s a milestone, it’s not the end,” Wallingford said. “Next we have to make sure that everything is running smoothly, that people know how to use the kitchen, that people know how to get here and leave, and how to operate all the new appliances. . . . So there will be a process that will take several months to figure that out. That’s going to have its challenges.”

Merrimack County Savings Bank provided loans to allow construction to move forward while fundraising continued. Yesterday, Wallingford publicly thanked the bank and Don Bennert, senior vice president in commercial loans. The new building’s kitchen is named for the bank.

“We . . . are thrilled to be at this historic event where the fortitude of so many is coming to fruition,” Bennert said.

Jonathan Halle of Warren Street Architects donated his time to design the building, and Cobb Hill Construction completed the work.

The Friendly Kitchen received a $100,000 donation from Lincoln Financial Foundation last year to bolster the rebuilding campaign, and Wallingford said yesterday that the new building’s dining room is named after the company. Byron Champlin, a Concord-based program officer for Lincoln Financial, called the new building a “rebirth” for the Friendly Kitchen.

The project also received a $500,000 federal Community Development Block Grant and a $300,000 tax credit grant from the state’s Community Development Finance Authority for the project. As part of ongoing fundraising efforts, Wallingford said the nonprofit still needs to sell some of its tax credits.

Butterworth, whom Wallingford called the “face, voice and heart” of the organization, summarized the emotion of the day as she spoke to the crowd.

“We have found what we have lost and it is more magnificent than is believable,” she said.

(Laura McCrystal can be reached at 369-3312 or lmccrystal@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @lmccrystal.)

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