Manna moving meals temporarily

Soup kitchen to undergo remodeling

Martha Wackley, right, serves cranberry Jell-O during Thursday’s lunch at the Manna Soup Kitchen. Helping are volunteers, from left, Kyle Jamar, Claudia Sprowso, Harry Goff, Marcia Heidenreich, Marcie Bray and Tuula Bader. Manna will begin serving sack lunches Saturday when repair work will start on soup kitchen’s building. The building is expected to reopen March 12. Enlarge photo

JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald

Martha Wackley, right, serves cranberry Jell-O during Thursday’s lunch at the Manna Soup Kitchen. Helping are volunteers, from left, Kyle Jamar, Claudia Sprowso, Harry Goff, Marcia Heidenreich, Marcie Bray and Tuula Bader. Manna will begin serving sack lunches Saturday when repair work will start on soup kitchen’s building. The building is expected to reopen March 12.

One of Durango’s most essential eating establishments is getting a face-lift.

Manna Soup Kitchen will close its doors beginning Saturday and resume regular services March 12.

Throughout the construction, Manna will serve breakfast and sack lunches from 6 a.m. to noon using a food truck in their parking lot.

“We will make sure that we can accommodate and solve the hunger issues for the same volume of people we served in our building,” said Sarah Comerford, executive director of Manna.

Manna Soup Kitchen will be closed on weekends and will not offer Wednesday night dinner during the three-week construction.

“The biggest challenge is not having the face time with our clients,” Comerford said.

The facility also will be issuing cards to the Durango Recreation Center and Town Plaza Coin Laundry where clients will be able to shower and do laundry.

The soup kitchen received a $150,000 grant from the Karakin Foundation to make needed improvements on the building.

The funding can be used only on the building and organization, Comerford said.

“The grant came at a wonderful time because we need a lot of repairs,” Comerford said.

Among the improvements on tap: replace a leaking roof, fix the tile floor, install new cabinets and storage and add more seating and parking, Comerford said.

With more storage space and expanded seating, Manna Soup Kitchen will be able to expand the reach of its services.

“We’re trying to better serve our clients and envision how we can better address the root causes of hunger,” Comerford said.

The improvements come at a time when demand for the soup kitchen’s services are higher than ever.

“Twelve percent of the people in La Plata are food insecure – that translates into about 6,000 people in our area,” Comerford said.

In addition to the grant, the Karakin Foundation aided Manna in the purchase of an old food truck from 1974.

“We’re tricking it out,” Comerford said. “We’ve put quite a lot of money into fixing the engine, brakes and tires.”

The truck has new shelving and storage, a new grill, new refrigerator and new fryer, Smith said.

“Whatever a chef needs in a food truck, we’re going to get that for him,” Comerford said.

The truck will be used to respond to emergencies and host events throughout the year, Smith said.

“It needs a lot of work, but we’re really going to fix it up and have a lot of fun with it,” Comerford said. “I can see it becoming a mobile teaching kitchen.”

Warren Smith, the executive chef and director of internal programs for Manna, said the new and improved kitchen, once open, also has many possibilities.

“If we had a partnership with educators and could provide culinary job training, it could put a lot of people quickly into the job force,” Smith said. “Our future dream is building a culinary-arts program.”

It would serve people of all stripes.

“I want to help people who are chronically homeless and help them obtain kitchen skills and then put them into a program so they have something to give back to the workforce,” Smith said. “I want to set up a scholarship fund that can help people achieve this.”

pblank@durangoherald.com

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