Soup kitchen applies for remodel grants

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

NAPLES — Approximately 150 meals are served daily at the local soup kitchen, which operates out of the Naples Town Gymnasium from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

While the people who receive well-rounded, healthy meals have more than enough to eat and plenty of places to sit down, the workers who prepare the food don’t have enough elbow room.

“We are having some growing pains,” said Crosswalk Community Outreach President Mark Clement. “Any one Monday, there are five people preparing food. The stove doesn’t work, there isn’t enough counter space, the cabinet drawers are too low and get in the way, and the water doesn’t get hot enough to sanitize dishes.”

Clement added, “The food pantry business is, unfortunately, a big business. The need has grown over 140 percent.”

During the Naples Board of Selectmen meeting, Clement proposed the idea of applying for a grant through PROP. The grant would provide funds for a remodel of the kitchen that is being used regularly to serve no-cost meals to residents.

“We found out that we could apply for a grant through PROP, but in order to apply the kitchen must meet guidelines, and it doesn’t,” Clement said.

The requirements included the installation of a separate hand-washing sink for workers and a commercial dishwasher to ensure cookware and utensils are sanitized, he said.

At first, it was unclear if the grant application process required that upgrades be made first. The selectmen thought the town would have to pay for improvements before the nonprofit could apply for the grant.

Selectmen Chairman Christine Powers asked if that was the case.

Clement clarified that the costs of bringing the kitchen up to standard would be paid for through the grant. So, getting the grant did not hinge on the upgrades being made first, but that the grant money would be earmarked for the cost of bringing the public-use kitchen “up to standard.”

Once that monetary detail was cleared up, the board tossed its support behind Crosswalk with a 4-0 vote to “go for the grant.”

Prior to the vote, Clement said the town would have to match the grant amount. So, it would be a 50-50 split. Also, there would be no obligation to accept the grant, he told selectmen on Monday.

Town Manager Derik Goodine agreed that was the protocol.

“It doesn’t tie our hands to submit a grant application,” Goodine said.

Although Ron Blake of Blake Redecorating provided details of improvements and a range of estimates, the cost would not be finalized until the nonprofit was awarded the grant.

“When Crosswalk food pantry approached me, I gave them two bids: One for their needs, and another for their dream kitchen,” Blake said.

One proposed upgrade is a six-burner gas range or, at least the space and proper ventilation hood system for such a purchase, he said.

Also, the 28-inch-tall counters would be replaced with 32-inch-tall counters, which would match the height of a commercial dishwasher, he said. One convenience item would be a self-guided rolling drawer system to house cookware.

But, a proper electrical system would be a must.

“The breaker panel is very, very old. We need to put in a 90-amp panel. That would take care of the new appliances — the dishwasher and the suppression ventilation hood,” Blake said.

The amount awarded would determine if the grant would pay for bare essentials or afford the ideal kitchen for food-preparation volunteers.

“We needed a starting point,” Clements said.

The nonprofit can explore what is available for funds through PROP and other agencies, he said, adding that Goodine had informed him there were limited funds in the budget that could be applied toward improvements to town-owned property.

“Upgrading the kitchen would really benefit Crosswalk, and also benefit the community for occasions like birthdays,” he said.

The town will have a “user-friendly, safe kitchen,” Clement said in his final pitch for the makeover.

According to Selectman Rick Paraschak, “One of the reasons the kitchen has never been upgraded is because” there was not a group using the kitchen on a regular basis. But, now that it is getting used, it’s fair for the community group that uses it to be responsible for the funds to improve it.”

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