BELFAST, Maine — With good smells wafting in the air and lunch at every table full, the Belfast Soup Kitchen was a hopping place recently.
“All other soup kitchens have clients. We have guests,” said Alexander Allmayer-Beck, a volunteer and former director of the nonprofit organization. “People come here. They have seen what we are and how we’re different. We treat everybody with respect who walks in that door.”
At least 50 people come for a hot, good, free meal served five days a week in the soup kitchen at the Belfast Center on Field Street. This holiday season, thanks to the generosity of people in the community and beyond, the facility will receive a “giant check” from another local organization that will help make it possible for those guests to keep on coming.
It started small in early December, said Breanna Pinkham Bebb of Our Town Belfast. That’s when a person came to her office and said they would like to make a $500 gift to the Belfast Soup Kitchen if Our Town Belfast could raise a matching amount of money.
“Our first goal was $1,000,” she said. “Within 24 hours, we were there.”
The money and matching pledges have kept rolling in, with Christmas being the last day to make a financial contribution through the online fundraising site www.indiegogo.com. But by Sunday, the grand total of donations received online and in the mail already had added up to $5,220, she said.
“It’s incredible how many people care about this,” Pinkham Bebb said. “Our organization does a lot to celebrate and promote what’s good about Belfast. There are people in our community who are in need. It’s not all wonderful all the time, and it’s meaningful for us to do something like this, especially in the holiday season.”
Over at the Belfast Soup Kitchen, board members said they were appreciative of the community’s generosity, and proud of the homey facility, where people sat and chatted while eating their lunch of chicken and potato salad. Allmayer-Beck said the soup kitchen has been busier in recent years, and also has been more expensive to run, with monthly operating costs jumping from about $3,500 four years ago to about $7,500 now.
“We’re feeding more people. Our rent has gone up. The price of food has increased vastly,” he said.
Every little bit helps, said board member Amy Paine. She said the soup kitchen also was given a philanthropic boost this month by Portland-based Katalyst Clothing, by the students at Belfast Area High School and by Swan Lake Grocery.
“It’s great,” she said of the generosity. “It’s worked out really well.”
And guests like Amanda, who declined to share her last name or hometown, appreciate the fact that the Belfast Soup Kitchen is a free, nice place to go.
“The soup kitchen has such a lovely environment,” she said. “So warm and inviting. You get to have lunch with so many nice people.”
To contribute money to the Belfast Soup Kitchen via the Our Town Belfast campaign, visit www.indiegogo.com/projects/help-us-support-the-belfast-soup-kitchen.