$1.5 million needed for new soup kitchen

The Golden Harvest Food Bank has kicked off a campaign to raise $1.5 million for its new Master's Table soup kitchen.

The Master's Table provides lunch to people who are homeless or hungry, said Michael Firmin, executive director of the food bank.

"Golden Harvest provides the food and the paid staff to oversee the program. The actual meals are prepared and served by volunteer teams," he said. "It's provided to our guests with no questions asked."

The program has operated out of a building at 842 Fenwick St. since 1991. The dining room seats 45 people; however, an average of 300 people are served during the 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. lunchtime each day, Mr. Firmin said.

"This has become a huge concern for us, as well as our volunteers," he said. "We have to feed this many people in a hour and a half in a facility that has been deteriorating badly over the years."

The building has leaks and the kitchen equipment is more than 16 years old, which makes it difficult to cook the quantity of food needed.

Because of the limited space and the number of people being fed, there is little time for other things, such as counseling and referrals to other services, Mr. Firmin said.

The new facility, which will be located at Seventh and Fenwick streets, will have 6,800 square feet and will seat 152 people.

"In the new facility, we will be able to give them counseling and refer them to other services that can get them out of the cycle," he said. "Our vision is to do more for our guests than simply feed them. We want to have a more holistic approach and offer services that can potentially change their lives."

The facility will cost $1.5 million.

"We needed the building yesterday, so the sooner we can raise the money, the better," Mr. Firmin said. "Every day it becomes more and more difficult because the numbers grow, and with this economy we expect it to grow even more."

Construction won't begin until the $1.5 million is raised, he added.

"I'm confident that we can do this," he said. "With our community's help, I truly believe that we can raise the amount. Our guests are worthy of a new facility that can better serve them and offer them opportunities to a better way."

Reach Nikasha Dicks at (706) 823-3336 or nikasha.dicks@augustachronicle.com.

HOW TO HELP

Tax-deductible donations may be sent to:

Golden Harvest Food Bank

3310 Commerce Drive

Augusta, GA 30909

Please indicate that the donations are for the Master's Table Building Fund.

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