BIDDEFORD — For more than a decade, Kathy Duke’s name was synonymous with the Stone Soup Food Pantry in Biddeford. Her work for Biddeford’s hungry was endless.

Despite being diagnosed with cancer last year, Duke, 73, continued doing all she could for those in need until the last month or two of her life.

Then, on Jan. 14, Duke succumbed to the disease.

But even after her death, Duke is helping the hungry: The Kathy Duke “An Act of Love” Variety Benefit Show will be held Friday at the Biddeford City Theater in her honor.

In addition to a $5 entry fee, audience members are asked to bring monetary and/or non-perishable food donations.

Estella Papassavas, who works at the Biddeford+Saco Chamber of Commerce & Industry, and Fausto Pifferrer, an owner of Blue Elephant, a café and catering business in Saco, are putting on the event.

The benefit was in the works before Duke died, when it was known that she was very sick, said Papassavas.

“It was going to be a reception, and (we would) show how much we loved her,” she said.

Now, the benefit will be a celebration of Duke’s life, said Papassavas. She said she hopes for a large turnout ”“ enough to fill the 500-seat theater.

The variety show will feature comedy and music. Among the acts are musicians Fifth Freedom, Crisis A.D., Dean Ford and Delilah Poupore, and comedians Tim Sevigny and Dennis Fogg.

All proceeds will benefit Stone Soup, said Pifferrer.

“We’re asking everyone to go to the grocery store and pick up a couple extra cans,” he said, “and show Kathy you appreciate everything she’s done over the years.”

Jodi Bissonnette, the director of York County Food Rescue, which provides food to local pantries, was a close friend of Duke. She said she’s looking forward to the benefit. Bissonnette has stepped in at Stone Soup to help fill Duke’s shoes, until another volunteer co-director for the pantry can be found. Duke shared the directorship of Stone Soup with Helen Lewis, who has stayed on.

But Duke did so much and her shoes are hard to fill, said Bissonnette.

Not only did Duke provide food, but she also did her best to fill requests for clothing, furniture and other necessities, she said.

“Until we figure things out,” people have stepped up temporarily to fill the gaps left by Duke, said Bissonnette.

But “when I’m there (at the pantry) you can feel the emptiness,” she said.

“Kathy definitely made a difference in this world,” said Bissonnette. “She’ll be hard to replace.”

The Kathy Duke “An Act of Love” Variety Benefit Show will be held Friday from 6-9 p.m. Doors open at 5 p.m. at the Biddeford City Theater, 205 Main St. Admission is $5 and all ages are welcome. Donations of money and/or non-perishable goods are welcome. Proceeds benefit the Stone Soup Food Pantry.

— Staff Writer Dina Mendros can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 324 or [email protected]

        Comments are not available on this story.

        filed under: