Souls Harbour soup kitchen plans for new facilities

Drop-in centre Souls Harbour Rescue Mission in the north end will begin preparing for renovations to its commercial-sized kitchen on Wednesday.

Ken and Michelle Porter, founders of Souls Harbour Rescue Mission, look forward to demolishing the vibrant green and blue cupboards in the kitchen of their drop-in centre. The outdated stove and family-sized fridge will follow shortly after.

Souls Harbour provides free meals for low-income members of the community. It won the $100,000 grand prize for a kitchen renovation through a 2015 community fund competition, hosted by the insurance company Aviva.

On average the team of paid staff and volunteers serve 100 meals per day, with that number spiking between 300 and 400 during special occasions. A commercial-sized kitchen will replace the currently cramped quarters, allowing Souls Harbour to increase the quality and quantity of its meals.

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“Technically, renovations start [Wednesday],” said Michelle. “That’s when the initial measurements will be taken.”

Foster MacKenzie, architect and co-founder of Harvey and MacKenzie Ltd., will take measurements of the kitchen. When designing the layout for the new kitchen, these measurements will act as a rough perimeter.

MacKenzie sought the input of Joe George, a commercial kitchen consultant, to help with the design. Both are volunteering their time for this project.

“I took a run down there a few weeks ago,” said George. “I think we can provide them with a good layout and new equipment.”

Michelle says Souls Harbour is in desperate need of new facilities.

“We have one huge pot that takes two to three hours just to boil water,” Michelle Porter said of the equipment used to prepare meals each week from Monday to Friday.

Expanding galley kitchen

Along with purchasing new equipment — such as a stainless steel dishwasher, range stove and new exhaust system — George is also looking to expand the size of the cramped, galley kitchen.

The Porters would like to knock out the wall separating Ken’s office and the kitchen, and turn the space into a walk-in freezer.

Of course, that’s if the building co-operates.

Michelle admits $100,000 sounds like a big budget. “But the building itself is quite old,” she said, “and there are always things you don’t expect.”

George agrees that expanding the kitchen will depend on what obstacles they run up against once demolition starts.

The Porters will worry about potential bumps in the road as they come along. For now it’s time to celebrate. Michelle has planned a kitchen party at Souls Harbour this Saturday, with performances from musicians Wendy MacIsaac and Brad Davidge.

“It’s supposed to be a celebration!” said Michelle.

She is hopeful that the commercial kitchen installations will be finished by mid fall.