Give Back NH: the convivial kitchen

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For this week’s Give Back New Hampshire segment, NHPR’s Emily Quirk circled The friendly kitchen here in Concord, who have been providing hot meals to low-income, homeless people for over forty years:

Sara Curran (Office Manager): So there was a building that was Montgomery Street. It was a much smaller place. That one caught fire, that’s why we built this [building] in 2012.

Emily Quirk (NHPR producer): And this piano?

Courran: This piano is what survived him. And then there are hinges in the desk that also survived.

Oddity: Do people play sometimes?

Courran: Yeah. Some guests come in and play. Not well, but yes, they play. We are very lucky. We are very lucky when they play.

My name is Sara Curran. I’m the office manager at the Friendly Kitchen.

I love it. I love everyone who eats here. That’s part of the reason I’m still working here. I love personalities. I love seeing them every day. It’s really one of the highlights of my work here.

The Friendly Kitchen dining room is a bright and sunny place where people can enjoy a hot meal.

Valérie Guy (General Manager): So we have a nice building on Commercial Street with a nice bright dining room where customers can come in during the summer and get out of the heat, and go in in the winter to get out of the cold.

We have, I would say, over 300 volunteers. At one time it was higher than that. We have volunteers who have been doing this for 40 years.

Courran: They can therefore arrive half an hour earlier and have a coffee. And then when we open, they can line up for their meals here.

Oddity: And this is the kitchen?

Courran: Yeah. From! Hi there. This is Emily from NHPR.

Volunteers: Hi how are you? (My favorite radio station)!

Oddity: Can you tell me what you cook here?

Colleen Graham (volunteer): Yes, I make spaghetti and meatballs. Nice sauce with sautéed green peppers.

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Sara Curran is the office manager of The Friendly Kitchen; she oversees hundreds of volunteers and the menu schedule seen here.

Courran: So the guests here eat better than I eat at home. Here, all the food is completely homemade. So the meals they eat are meals you would have grown up eating at home. So casseroles, homemade soups. American chop suey is a big thing here; Parmentier, but here everything is homemade. And then lunch is usually something that we’ll warm up from dinner.

Volunteer chat: Yes. And that, I believe. Pam? Does it happen in children? I’ll take this. Yes? It’s going to Children’s Place today. Yes it is.

Pam Manus (Volunteer): My name is Pam Manis and I’ve been a volunteer…forever. I make breakfasts in the winter. I make family meals. I help in the back if I can. And people say, ‘Where are you going today?’ I’m like, until the friendly kitchen sure!

Courran: Community is a big part of why we’re still running. A lot of our giving is based on community giving, so big corporations help us out and then local individual donors are the reason we’re still struggling.

Dude: Some of us take things for granted in our lives. And when you see the need in the community and how happy people are when they can eat here or the surveys we get and people describe what it means to them to have home cooked meals when they have struggling to put food on the table and pay their bills. That’s why I continue to work here.

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