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Friendly Kitchen provides food and sense of community

  • Ole Olson and Kristen McGonigle joke around after serving food to sixty people at the Friendly Kitchen's new location in Concord on New Year's Day; Tuesday, January 1, 2013. McGonigle organizes a group of about 14 volunteers from the Junior Service League in Concord once a month to cook and serve food at the Friendly Kitchen.<br/><br/>(SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor Staff)

    Ole Olson and Kristen McGonigle joke around after serving food to sixty people at the Friendly Kitchen's new location in Concord on New Year's Day; Tuesday, January 1, 2013. McGonigle organizes a group of about 14 volunteers from the Junior Service League in Concord once a month to cook and serve food at the Friendly Kitchen.

    (SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Kristen McGonaigle serves dinner to Raymond Sullivan at the Friendly Kitchen on New Years Day. Tuesday, January 1, 2013. McGonigle organizes a group of about fourteen volunteers from the Junior Service League in Concord once a month to cook and serve food at the Friendly Kitchen. Tuesday was McGonigle's first time volunteering at the new location, she said they served about sixty people Tuesday, and at the old location they usually served eighty or ninety.<br/>(SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor Staff)

    Kristen McGonaigle serves dinner to Raymond Sullivan at the Friendly Kitchen on New Years Day. Tuesday, January 1, 2013. McGonigle organizes a group of about fourteen volunteers from the Junior Service League in Concord once a month to cook and serve food at the Friendly Kitchen. Tuesday was McGonigle's first time volunteering at the new location, she said they served about sixty people Tuesday, and at the old location they usually served eighty or ninety.
    (SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Kristen McGonaigle serves dinner to Raymond Sullivan at the Friendly Kitchen on New Years Day. Tuesday, January 1, 2013. McGonigle organizes a group of about fourteen volunteers from the Junior Service League in Concord once a month to cook and serve food at the Friendly Kitchen. Tuesday was McGonigle's first time volunteering at the new location, she said they served about sixty people Tuesday, and at the old location they usually served eighty or ninety.<br/>(SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor Staff)

    Kristen McGonaigle serves dinner to Raymond Sullivan at the Friendly Kitchen on New Years Day. Tuesday, January 1, 2013. McGonigle organizes a group of about fourteen volunteers from the Junior Service League in Concord once a month to cook and serve food at the Friendly Kitchen. Tuesday was McGonigle's first time volunteering at the new location, she said they served about sixty people Tuesday, and at the old location they usually served eighty or ninety.
    (SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Kristen McGonaigle serves dinner to Raymond Sullivan at the Friendly Kitchen on New Years Day. Tuesday, January 1, 2013. McGonigle organizes a group of about fourteen volunteers from the Junior Service League in Concord once a month to cook and serve food at the Friendly Kitchen. Tuesday was McGonigle's first time volunteering at the new location, she said they served about sixty people Tuesday, and at the old location they usually served eighty or ninety.<br/>(SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor Staff)

    Kristen McGonaigle serves dinner to Raymond Sullivan at the Friendly Kitchen on New Years Day. Tuesday, January 1, 2013. McGonigle organizes a group of about fourteen volunteers from the Junior Service League in Concord once a month to cook and serve food at the Friendly Kitchen. Tuesday was McGonigle's first time volunteering at the new location, she said they served about sixty people Tuesday, and at the old location they usually served eighty or ninety.
    (SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Kristen McGonaigle serves dinner to Raymond Sullivan at the Friendly Kitchen on New Years Day. Tuesday, January 1, 2013. McGonigle organizes a group of about fourteen volunteers from the Junior Service League in Concord once a month to cook and serve food at the Friendly Kitchen. Tuesday was McGonigle's first time volunteering at the new location, she said they served about sixty people Tuesday, and at the old location they usually served eighty or ninety.<br/>(SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor Staff)

    Kristen McGonaigle serves dinner to Raymond Sullivan at the Friendly Kitchen on New Years Day. Tuesday, January 1, 2013. McGonigle organizes a group of about fourteen volunteers from the Junior Service League in Concord once a month to cook and serve food at the Friendly Kitchen. Tuesday was McGonigle's first time volunteering at the new location, she said they served about sixty people Tuesday, and at the old location they usually served eighty or ninety.
    (SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor Staff) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

  • Ole Olson and Kristen McGonigle joke around after serving food to sixty people at the Friendly Kitchen's new location in Concord on New Year's Day; Tuesday, January 1, 2013. McGonigle organizes a group of about 14 volunteers from the Junior Service League in Concord once a month to cook and serve food at the Friendly Kitchen.<br/><br/>(SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor Staff)
  • Kristen McGonaigle serves dinner to Raymond Sullivan at the Friendly Kitchen on New Years Day. Tuesday, January 1, 2013. McGonigle organizes a group of about fourteen volunteers from the Junior Service League in Concord once a month to cook and serve food at the Friendly Kitchen. Tuesday was McGonigle's first time volunteering at the new location, she said they served about sixty people Tuesday, and at the old location they usually served eighty or ninety.<br/>(SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor Staff)
  • Kristen McGonaigle serves dinner to Raymond Sullivan at the Friendly Kitchen on New Years Day. Tuesday, January 1, 2013. McGonigle organizes a group of about fourteen volunteers from the Junior Service League in Concord once a month to cook and serve food at the Friendly Kitchen. Tuesday was McGonigle's first time volunteering at the new location, she said they served about sixty people Tuesday, and at the old location they usually served eighty or ninety.<br/>(SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor Staff)
  • Kristen McGonaigle serves dinner to Raymond Sullivan at the Friendly Kitchen on New Years Day. Tuesday, January 1, 2013. McGonigle organizes a group of about fourteen volunteers from the Junior Service League in Concord once a month to cook and serve food at the Friendly Kitchen. Tuesday was McGonigle's first time volunteering at the new location, she said they served about sixty people Tuesday, and at the old location they usually served eighty or ninety.<br/>(SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor Staff)
  • Kristen McGonaigle serves dinner to Raymond Sullivan at the Friendly Kitchen on New Years Day. Tuesday, January 1, 2013. McGonigle organizes a group of about fourteen volunteers from the Junior Service League in Concord once a month to cook and serve food at the Friendly Kitchen. Tuesday was McGonigle's first time volunteering at the new location, she said they served about sixty people Tuesday, and at the old location they usually served eighty or ninety.<br/>(SAMANTHA GORESH / Monitor Staff)

Although the Friendly Kitchen and its guests are still adjusting to the new location on Commercial Street, 49 guests showed up yesterday just as they would any other Tuesday to enjoy two things: A hot lunch and some good conversation.

“It’s a social life with people from this area,” said Randall Russell, 53, who has been eating meals at the Friendly Kitchen since 1998. Yesterday the lunch menu included pickled beets and onions, sweet-and-sour chicken, beef and pasta casserole and cookies for dessert. It takes Russell 22 minutes to walk to the new building, and he planned on coming back for dinner.

The Friendly Kitchen’s old building on Montgomery Street was badly damaged by a fire in April 2011, and the kitchen has used several temporary locations since. Construction on the brand-new building – with state-of-the-art kitchen equipment and chandeliers made of spoons – began about five months ago and was completed in early December. The first dinner at the new building was served last Thursday.

Yesterday’s lunch and dinner crowds were a bit smaller

than usual, volunteers said. Both patrons and volunteers said some people are still adjusting to the new location, which is harder to get to because of the highway. But a meal and a chance to catch up with friends is what keeps bringing people in every day. Patrons filtered through the line, receiving heaps of food from volunteers Cynthia Kiely and Louise Parenteau, before spreading out among the tables in groups of two or three.

Russell said he’s gotten to know many people who come to the Friendly Kitchen throughout the years, and it’s good to keep up with each other. He planned to bring a deck of cards back to play games before dinner. He comes for lunch and dinner every day but hasn’t yet been to breakfast, which is served every day during the winter months, at the new building.

Others made a much farther trek for a hot meal. Bruce O’Hara, for example, took a cab down from Laconia on Friday and has been staying at a shelter in Concord and eating at the Friendly Kitchen since.

“I decided to stay here, and it’s a friendly place here,” he said.

Although finally being in a permanent location is rewarding, the staff and volunteers at the Friendly Kitchen are still adjusting, said manager Jennifer Lombardo. The building is much bigger, and there is new equipment in the kitchen.

“It’s wonderful but it’s very challenging right now,” she said. “But we also know we’re not going to have to move again, so that’s a good thing.”

She said the move is a likely reason for the lower numbers so far. The sidewalk along Interstate-393 is not being shoveled right now, making walking to the building more difficult, she said. The city also talked about putting a bus station in the parking lot, which many guests said they would be in favor of, but that has not happened yet, Lombardo said.

A typical dinner crowd will be about 75-100 people, she said, and she expects the numbers to be up soon.

“Some guests, change is really hard for them, so it may take them a while to get here because the newness is different,” she said.

As Russell and other guests yesterday said, socializing is a big draw in addition to the food. It also gives people a place to come in and warm up from the cold.

Mark Day, 53, has been making the trek to the Friendly Kitchen for the past 15 years. He lives near the Concord and Webster border, and it takes him three hours to walk each way. But he makes it as often as he can.

His short answer to what makes the long journey worth it captured the feeling expressed by many patrons yesterday.

“Good food, good company.”

(Kathleen Ronayne can be reached at 369-3309 or kronayne@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @kronayne.)

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