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February 18. 2013 9:38PM

Nashua Soup Kitchen's plan to move is before planners again

NASHUA - The Nashua Soup Kitchen, which was devastated last fall when city planners rejected its plan to relocate its food service facility, is hopeful that a second attempt will be successful.

"It did not go so well for us last time around," said Lisa Christie, executive director of the Nashua Soup Kitchen and Shelter, who says she is optimistic the Nashua City Planning Board will approve their new request this week.

The planning board denied the agency's original proposal to convert a building at 2 West Otterson St. into a community food service kitchen. But just days after the disappointment, Barry Palmer, Nashua VFW Post 483 commander, invited soup kitchen representatives to tour the post facility and possibly consider purchasing the building.

Now, with a tentative purchase and sale agreement in place, the soup kitchen must again approach city planners seeking authorization to operate a food distribution facility from the VFW post at 2 Quincy St.

"We actually are feeling like this building is going to be a better fit for us," Christie said on Friday, explaining that sometimes one door closes so that another even more appealing door can open. Thursday's planning board meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Nashua City Hall, and Christie said many supporters of the soup kitchen are planning to attend.

"We are feeling better about it this time," she said. "We are thrilled about the VFW building. It is a great match for us."

With the local VFW looking to downsize, and the soup kitchen hoping to expand, representatives from both organizations have reached an agreement they say will benefit both community service groups.

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

Although the VFW has not yet found a new home, Palmer stressed earlier that the organization will continue to function in Nashua, and plans to remain in operation for many years to come.

The two groups agreed on a sale price they were both comfortable with, but the dollar figure has not yet been released. Officials from both groups say the number will be disclosed upon closing, which Christie expects will take place in April. If approved by city planners, Christie said there is some work to be done at the new site, and she hopes to be operating from the Quincy Street location by Thanksgiving.

Their current kitchen on Chestnut Street is about 4,000 square feet, which forces patrons to often wait outside - sometimes in the freezing cold - to obtain their meals, according to soup kitchen representatives, who said the new soup kitchen will be about 14,000 square feet and 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 during the month of August. This past August, 2,318 breakfasts were served and 5,167 dinners.

If the relocation is approved, Christie said the organization has not yet determined what will happen to the current kitchen on Chestnut Street.

khoughton@newstote.com

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