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With shelter on horizon, Manna needs winter home

November 2, 2001

This artist’s rendering depicts the future home of the Manna Soup Kitchen, which will be located at the corner of Roosa Avenue and Avenida del Sol. The new building will cost about $400,000, and is expected to be completed by June.

By Jennifer Reeder
Special to the Herald

The Manna Soup Kitchen broke ground on a new home Thursday, but in the meantime, it is in desperate need of a temporary shelter to help it through winter, Director Kim Workman said.

"All we need is four walls, a ceiling and a floor," said Workman. "We need to get out of the weather before the weather gets us."

The soup kitchen’s base of operations for nine years was Sacred Heart Church until last June, when the church began remodeling. Now, the meals are prepared at First Baptist Church and served in the Sacred Heart parking lot on weekdays from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

But with winter approaching, Manna’s directors fear a tent in the parking lot will not provide adequate shelter for the lunch crowd.

"We feed anyone who shows up," said Diane Mee, secretary of the Manna board. Mee estimated that 40 to 60 guests are fed each day. The kitchen served 17,448 lunches last year.

Manna’s housing problem is only temporary. Construction on the kitchen’s new 40-by-105 foot building – which will be located near Greenmount Cemetery at the corner of Avenida del Sol and Roosa Avenue – should be completed by June.

Mayor Amos Cordova and Mayor pro-tem John Gamble were among the groundbreaking ceremony’s attendees.

Gamble said the kitchen provides a useful service. "I’m glad they’re getting a new building," he said.

During the groundbreaking ceremony, La Plata Electric Association presented a $10,000 check to Manna. The funds were generated by LPEA’s Round-up program, which allows members to round up their electric bills to the nearest dollar for charity, said Bruce Sumner, manager of administrative services.

"It’s sad that even in our great community, there are less fortunate people," Sumner said. "But the soup kitchen is there to help."

Community support for the Manna Soup Kitchen has been strong. About $170,000 has been donated to the project; the Southern Ute tribe donated $30,000 earlier this week.

"One thing that never ceases to amaze me is how this runs on volunteer work," said Workman. She said she has a pool of 100 to 120 volunteers who help make and serve food, and pick up donations from Durango supermarkets.

Most neighbors of the future soup kitchen are supportive of the project.

"We’re very much in favor of it," said Kit O’Reilly, a resident of Avenida del Sol. "It’s a needed service and it’s got to be put somewhere."

Another neighbor, Susan Fedelchak, voiced a concern about the project. She said she isn’t worried about a decrease in property values or the presence of homeless people, but, "with all of the area they could’ve used and buildings that already exist, it seems like a waste of money to build a new one."

The total project cost is estimated at $400,000. Manna is hoping for donations of labor and construction materials to help defray costs. Mee said that the soup kitchen has "about a quarter to a third of the funds needed."

Anyone interested in volunteering or making a donation to Manna should call 385-5095.

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