September 11, 2013

Portland's largest soup kitchen to temporarily close

Preble Street needs to close for four days so that its soup kitchen can be renovated.

By Dennis Hoey dhoey@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND — The city’s largest soup kitchen will close Friday and won’t reopen until next week.

But, Preble Street has made arrangements with a Portland church to feed hundreds of homeless persons during the shutdown.

Executive Director Mark Swann said the Portland community rallied around Preble Street when word got out that the soup kitchen would need to be closed for renovations.

More than 25 businesses, churches and schools have offered to prepare meals, donate food or coffee, and to volunteer their time at Sacred Heart Church on Mellen Street where the soup kitchen will operate for four days – beginning Friday morning. Breakfast, lunch and dinner will be served each day.

“The show of community support has been a heartwarming experience,” Swann said Tuesday night.

For instance, City Deli, a small restaurant in One City Center, agreed to prepare an entire meal.
That is no small feat considering that more than 500 people attend dinner at Preble Street, Swann said.

Verrill Dana, a Portland law firm, volunteered to make 1,000 sandwiches. Verrill Dana is partnering with Hannaford supermarket which will donate all the cheese, bread and luncheon meat for the sandwiches.

Several local coffee shops led by Coffee by Design have offered to donate coffee for all 12 meals, Swann said.

The United States Coast Guard has volunteered to move kitchen equipment and supplies from Preble Street to the Sacred Heart Church.

Swann said Preble Street’s soup kitchen needs to close while crews renovate the kitchen and replace floors.

The work will begin after Thursday night dinner at Preble Street. Preble Street will reopen for breakfast on Tuesday.

About 18 months ago, Preble Street served dinner to 400 people. That number has grown to 500 for an evening meal, according to Swann.

“We used to think (serving) 200 people was extraordinary,” Swann recalled.

But as the economy worsened and people lost jobs, Swann said the number of people served by the soup kitchen “grew exponentially.” The only other soup kitchen that operates in Portland is run by Saint Vincent de Paul on Congress Street. St. Vincent serves lunch Monday through Friday.

Preble Street currently serves more than 1,000 meals a day. Nearly all of the food is donated.

Swann said his staff has tried to make everyone aware that the soup kitchen will be relocated to Sacred Heart, a location that is within walking distance of Preble Street.

“The good news is that it (the church) is not that far,” Swann said.

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