Nashua Soup Kitchen distributing more than 1,200 boxes of food

More than 1,000 turkeys are being distributed to those in need this Thanksgiving in the Nashua area.
Union Leader Correspondent
NASHUA — This year, Thanksgiving will be a little sweeter for Donald Nicholas and others like him who aren’t quite sure how they will get their next meal.

“I thank God for the soup kitchen. I have nothing,” said Nicholas, pulling out a dime from his pocket. “This is what I have to live on for the next two weeks until I get my Social Security. This is survival.”
While waiting at the Nashua Soup Kitchen and Shelter on Friday, Nicholas, of Nashua, said he is extremely grateful for the services offered to him and so many others by the nonprofit organization — especially the food.
This week, the soup kitchen distributed more than 900 Thanksgiving food boxes to people in need. And, it expects to hand out about 300 more boxes, all of them including turkeys, early next week.

“We will probably give out over 1,200 turkeys,” said Carol Weeks, community outreach manager at the soup kitchen. “Each year we are helping more and more people.”
Volunteers from local businesses have been helping to distribute the holiday food boxes this week at the soup kitchen’s new home on Quincy Street. The New Hampshire Food Bank is providing the turkeys, and stores including Hannaford, Costco, Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods are providing food almost daily to fulfill the demand.
“The community is very generous,” said Weeks, adding the Nashua Soup Kitchen would not be able to help so many people without the assistance from volunteers and donors.

The organization has a lot to be thankful for this holiday season, as it recently opened the doors to its new, larger facility where it can serve more clients.
“Unfortunately, the needs increase each year. But, at least we can offer these people a place to receive assistance with more dignity,” said Lisa Christie, executive director of the Nashua Soup Kitchen and Shelter.
At their old facility on Chestnut Street, clients were forced to wait outside in the cold to receive their holiday food boxes. But this year, they are able to wait discretely inside where they can be warm and socialize with other individuals, said Christie.
The new soup kitchen also enables the organization to store more refrigerated items that it once had to turn away because there was no where to keep the food cold.

“Now we can accept pallets of meat and get it out to the people who need it so that it doesn’t end up in the landfill,” she said.
The soup kitchen has two new dining rooms, one designed specifically for families with children. It seats 110 people compared to the old facility that could only accommodate 47.

Although the Thanksgiving food boxes are only available for seven days, Christie said the soup kitchen hands out food on a daily basis. In October, 800 food boxes were distributed to hungry local residents, she said, adding 200 food boxes were handed out in October of 2013.
On average, up to 200 people visit the soup kitchen for dinner each night.

“Our regular food pantry visits and our daily meals have increased considerably,” said Christie.

The soup kitchen is still working on its capital fundraising campaign initiative, and is trying to raise an additional $19,000 in order to obtain a matching $100,000 donation from an anonymous national organization.
Norma Valley, who volunteers once a week at the shelter, says she is honored this Thanksgiving to be able to help when possible.

“I have so much to be grateful for. It is my chance to give back, and I find that everyone is so appreciative,” said Valley.
Nicholas said he hopes there will be a day when he can give something back to the soup kitchen — an organization that he says has offered him so much. As for his Thanksgiving food box, Nicholas said his family will make the food last as long as possible, but they are especially looking forward to the holiday turkey.

Kimberly Houghton