Where should soup kitchen be relocated?
Loaves & Fishes needs to offer clients easy access to continue good works
Published 12:34 am, Wednesday, February 27, 2013
For nearly 30 years, the Loaves & Fishes Hospitality House of New Milford has been providing hot meals for needy individuals.
The soup kitchen has been part of a proud New Milford tradition of caring for those who need it -- a tradition that includes being among the first towns in this part of the state to offer elderly housing, a senior center and a youth agency.
Today, Loaves & Fishes is at a crossroads.
Today, the future mission and location of the all-volunteer organization is a work in progress.
And we believe it is important for town officials, the Loaves & Fishes board, other charitable organizations and interested residents to work closely together to ensure that Loaves & Fishes can continue -- and expand -- its good works.
New Milford has been an excellent landlord, providing space for Loaves & Fishes in the town-owned Richmond Citizen Center for just $1 a year for nearly 25 years and paying the freight for maintenance and utilities.
The soup kitchen, meanwhile, has been a salvation for hundreds of individuals over the years who would have had little or no other way to gain sustenance.
Loaves & Fishes, which is planning to conduct a capital campaign in its quest for a new home, currently serves hot meals and a to-go bag lunch to two or three dozen people a day. Over the course of the year, about 75 or 80 different people benefit from its services.
The partnership between the town and the soup kitchen has been a productive one -- a joint effort that has been both humanitarian and, in some cases, even life-saving.
Now, however, the town would like to use the soup kitchen space for senior center and social services purposes, and Loaves & Fishes would like to move into larger quarters that would also allow it to become a drop-in center and offer counseling and job training services.
This is where it gets a bit tricky.
Loaves & Fishes officials don't relish the prospect of moving their facility nearly six miles south of the center of town, especially since most of those who come to the soup kitchen live in or near the village center and either walk or ride bikes to the Richmond Citizen Center.
Mayor Murphy contends a plan could be worked out to ensure transportation via the HART bus company, but we see such a plan fraught with great inconvenience, potential problems and even danger for those who might hitchhike or walk along the four-lane Route 7.
We support Loaves & Fishes' desire to expand its services and seek to help its clients improve their lives, an admirable goal also shared by the mayor.
We also believe any new Loaves & Fishes facility should be located in or near the center of New Milford.
It is no secret that many in town, including the mayor, other officials and some businesspeople, would love to see Loaves & Fishes far away from the downtown, since some of the soup kitchen's clients cause problems when they hang out on the streets.
That is a complicated, sensitive issue, shared by the city of Danbury, that deserves to be addressed and resolved.
And it might be tough for the soup kitchen to find a new home without protests from potential neighbors.
But for Loaves & Fishes to provide useful, meaningful service to those in need, it must be located where clients have fairly easy access.
This does not have to be in a public building, or even in the village center proper.
But we urge the mayor, Loaves & Fishes officials and other interested parties to work closely and with all good will to help find a new home for that very valuable organization in or within close proximity to the village center.