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November 05. 2012 8:48PM

Nashua Soup Kitchen has tentative agreement to buy VFW facility

NASHUA - With the Nashua VFW Post 483 looking to downsize, and the Nashua Soup Kitchen hoping to expand, representatives from both organizations have reached a tentative agreement that will benefit both community service groups.

Over a cup of coffee and a heartfelt conversation, officials from the VFW on Friday offered to sell their facility at 2 Quincy St. to the Nashua Soup Kitchen for its food distribution services.

An undisclosed price-tag was reached by the two organizations, both of them describing the informal deal as a win-win situation for not only their groups, but the community at large.

"Sometimes when one door closes, another one opens," said John Fisher, a member of the Nashua Soup Kitchen and Shelter board of directors for more than 20 years.

Fisher was devastated last month when the Planning Board rejected a plan to convert a building at 2 West Otterson St. into a community food service kitchen.

But just days after the disappointment, the VFW post commander, Barry Palmer, invited Fisher to tour their post facility and possibly consider purchasing the building.

"It really seems quite perfect," said Fisher.

At a time when the Nashua Soup Kitchen is seeing an increase in clients, the VFW is experiencing a decline in membership, according to Fisher. Fisher said the two groups quickly agreed on a price they were both comfortable with, but said the dollar figure will not be released until boards for each organization have the opportunity to formally vote and sign a purchase-and-sale agreement.

"We are two human service agencies working together in the community. It is a good partnership," he added. Their current kitchen is about 4,000-square feet, which forces patrons to often wait outside - sometimes in the freezing cold - to obtain their meals, said Fisher, explaining the new soup kitchen will be about 14,000-square feet.

"It is inhumane to stand outside and wait to eat. It is just not fair to our clients," he said. "In the new location, we will be able to serve 180 people in the main meeting room."

In the past three years, the Nashua Soup Kitchen has tripled the amount of meals it serves on a regular basis. Three years ago, the kitchen served about 1,000 breakfasts and about 2,500 dinners in the month of August.

This past August, 2,318 breakfasts were served and 5,167 dinners, according to Fisher.

"It has been heartbreaking. It is very tough to watch that line year after year," he said.

Fisher is optimistic that this will be the last Thanksgiving when clients must wait outside to receive their holiday meal, as there is a tentative March 1, 2013, closing date on the new site.

Minor alterations will likely be made to the new facility, including a possible small expansion of the existing kitchen, but Fisher said the Nashua Soup Kitchen would like to begin serving meals at the Quincy Street location next fall.

"This process has been very emotionally charged at times," admits Fisher, who says he is grateful for the VFW and its members who have been understanding and generous - especially during their own financial struggles.

Within the past month, Palmer said members of the local VFW have expressed interest in downsizing from its large, three-story post, agreeing that it is just too big for the needs of the VFW.

The VFW took over the old house, which was originally build for Spanish-American War veterans, some time in the 1920s.

Currently, VFW Post 483 has about 420 members, but three years ago it had close to 520 members, according to Palmer.

"There is a degree of sadness associated with leaving our place, but we are glad that it will be put to good use," he said Monday. "We are pleased and delighted that the building itself will continue to service the community as it has for 90 years."

Although the VFW will now have to find a new home, Palmer stressed that the organization will continue to function in Nashua, and plans to remain in operation for many years to come.

"This could not have happened at a better time," he added.

Fisher stressed that the new soup kitchen will not be used as a shelter or house clients, as it already has a men's and women's shelter operating in the city.

khoughton@newstote.com


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