CARIBOU, Maine — The Bread of Life Soup Kitchen aims to provide meals for all and any who need a little help getting by, but that mission could be seriously compromised unless a dedicated volunteer steps forward to manage the kitchen.
“The soup kitchen has a great volunteer core, but we need people that are experienced in organizing work crews, working with the public and managing our facilities,” explained Dr. Josette Hunter, chair of the Bread of Life Soup Kitchen board of directors.
Shirley Fortin managed the soup kitchen for years until she retired in the spring of 2012 and the facility closed for a few months, according to Hunter. It reopened in September that year after three volunteers offered to coordinate their efforts to manage the facility and keep it open 4 days a week.
“But two of those managers cannot commit to serve this year,” Hunter explained. While the soup kitchen typically closes for about a month in July in each year, it is in danger of not reopening now unless a full-time manager or several volunteers agreeing to coordinate their efforts to manage the facility can be found.
“We are hesitant to open and then not be able to be there when people are depending on us,” she said.
The number of clients served at the kitchen has fluctuated both seasonally and daily, according to Hunter. She estimated the facility served 10 to 30 people each day, 400-500 meals a month when open. “In January, we served 595,” she said.
“Many of the clients that frequent the establishment have become familiar faces that benefit from the kitchen’s services daily while others are transient, some have reached a point in life where providing for the basics has become difficult and still other seek the warm and welcoming atmosphere — but all are in need of [the soup kitchen’s] services,” Hunter said.
Hunter and the other board members are hopeful of finding the right individual or group of volunteers to have the kitchen open once more in September.
Caribou City Councilor Kenneth Murchison has served on the kitchen’s board for the past four years and said that the time requirement for a volunteer manager would range from as high as 22 hours a week to as few as eight.
“Really, we’re just looking for people who’d like to donate their time and help people who need a hand,” he said.
Life experiences are also desirable in the new volunteer manager — like knowing what to do or who to call if a freezer breaks.
Several individuals and groups in the community have shown their enthusiasm for compassionate volunteerism over the years — Murchison said that a group from Cary has been one of the kitchen’s best supporters and members of the Caribou Rotary Club have been volunteering their services as well. Several church groups in the region also have donated their time to help serve dinner to those in need, and the consensus of volunteers is that lending a hand to those in need is a worthwhile, rewarding experience.
“It’s good to give back when you can,” Murchison said.
Those interested in offering their time to help keep the soup kitchen going are encouraged to send a letter of interest to the Bread of Life Soup Kitchen Board of Directors at 62 Collins Street in Caribou, calling 493-4858 or emailing Josette@huntermissions.com.