Nanaimo’s Stone Soup, for the past five years, has been a soup kitchen without its own kitchen, but now, the association finally has one.
The Wisteria Community Association held a grand opening Tuesday, Dec. 27, for the new Stone Soup kitchen on Fitzwilliam Street.
Stone Soup operates seven evenings a week, making four stops downtown and one stop in north Nanaimo to hand out hundreds of meals to people experiencing homelessness. Now, hot dinner are going to be on the menu.
“There will be no cold food leaving here…” said Tanya Hiltz, president of the Wisteria Community Association. “We are the only ones doing the hot meals at night. The difference between cold and hot to [unhoused people] will be unbelievable.”
She said the association has “fought long and hard” to open a kitchen. Hiltz had been “nosing around,” but rent costs were prohibitive until they were pointed toward the premises on Fitzwilliam with rent they can afford. Donors and volunteers have helped build the kitchen and now, “everything’s up to code and ready to go,” Hiltz said.
Doug Hiltz, who makes the deliveries every night, said people experiencing homelessness know where the Wisteria Community Association’s vehicle will be stopping and if they miss it at one location, catch it at the next stop.
“The nice part about the hot meals is it warms up their stomachs, so they can go back to where they’re camped out, got to sleep on a full stomach with a hot meal instead of a bagged lunch,” he said.
Chef Gaylene Singer and her team will begin cooking in the new space early in the new year. She prepared turkey sandwiches with all the trimmings for Christmas, and is already looking forward to being able to make a hot Christmas dinner next winter.
In addition to its Stone Soup meals, the Wisteria association pours a lot of cups of coffee and mochas, and hands out warm clothing and bedding.
“Donations of funds is always appreciated, because something’s got to pay the bills. We work hard, but it’s a non-profit. And of course, donations of non-perishable foods,” said John Boyes, the association’s vice-president.
Tanya Hiltz thanked the volunteers and many community partners who have helped with the kitchen project and with the food donations year-round.
“The need has gone up,” she said. “They rely on us.”
For more information, visit www.wisteriacommunityassociation.com.