Walking into Cloverdale’s Pacific Community Church, it’s obvious something big is going on.
Along with the day-to-day hum of activity in meeting rooms and offices, there’s the occasional burst of saws and drills.
Then there’s the wall of plywood blocking off a good section of the main foyer – it’s covered in photos and building plans, and a sign reading: Future Site of the Cloverdale Community Kitchen.
Behind the wall lays an ambitious community outreach project that’s been nearly a year in the making.
And, if all goes according to schedule, the new, commercial-grade community kitchen will be serving up its first hot meals by the end of November.
According to Alan Caldwell, director of facilities, three different church groups, including Pacific Community Church, were serving up 70 to 100 hot meals a week out of facilities that were completely inadequate.
Meals were prepared at homes or purchased from grocery stores, a situation that was limiting and not cost-effective.
But there’s no need to look at the plans and try to visualize the new space – a life-sized mock up using real components has been set up in the church’s roomy warehouse. It’s already possible to take a virtual tour.
There’s a professional dishwashing system, commercial grade oven, restaurant-grade stove and grill, steamer, and 20-gallon soup still.
There’s also a cold storage area and pantry.
“It’s going to be a pretty good kitchen,” says Caldwell, who runs his own company, B.C. Condo Advocate – a project management company for leaky condo cases – and who also designed the kitchen.
“We have all the equipment. We have everything here. We’re just waiting to get various approvals.
Construction began Sept. 14. Last week, a small crew was installing electrical and plumping.
The church started fundraising about a year ago after a unanimous decision to go ahead in building a ‘Food Safe’, commercial kitchen to provide a facility for the church and other concerned community groups. The campaign was already going well when the project received a major boost in the form of donated new and second-hand kitchen equipment. Most came from a single donor.
“It really took us over the top,” Caldwell said.
“It was like God saying to our congregation, ‘I’m serious about this, so let’s get on with it.’”
Racks of storage shelving house plates, dishes, mugs, coffee carafes, utensils, serving dishes, table cloths – everything needed to serve hot meals cooked on the premises.
“With what we took out of our existing kitchen we have more than enough,” he said.
Anything surplus has been given to other charities, such as a batch of towels that were donated to a transition house.
“I call this the gift that keeps on giving.”
Other donors have been just as generous, offering up freebies on expensive items like a commercial grade food processor, for example.
Once the kitchen is complete, the project will need more support from the community in terms of food donations and volunteers willing to get involved.
Already, a specialty bread store has indicated it will donate surplus stock. He hopes other corporate partners will come forward.
The new kitchen will enhance existing soup kitchen initiatives based out of Pacific Community Church and lead to new programs initiated by the church – and from the wider community.
The renovations have temporarily halted the three weekly initiatives based out of Pacific Community Church: The Korean Presbyterian Church’s Shepherd’s Inn Thursday noon lunch, and the Monday and Wednesday night cafes operated by Pacific Community Church and the Cloverdale Christian Fellowship respectively.
“We think that the clientele will come back very fast, because it is a growing clientele, it’s not a diminishing clientele. The homeless and the marginalized, it’s growing in this area,” he said.
“We hope to get those programs up and running and reestablished. But our dream is to reach out to other demographic groups such as seniors and single parents.”
That may involve inviting seniors once a month for a meal and an educational series about networking or accessing community services.
“It’s the working poor and the growing number of seniors,” he said. “There’s just a huge, growing population.”
A bulk buying cooperative program is another idea, bringing costs down for people on fixed incomes.
For example, The church is already part of the Harvest Box bulk produce buying program, which sees 1,300 hampers of veggies and fresh produce go out every two weeks.
“This is called the Cloverdale Community Kitchen, so it’s all about maybe there’s other groups.”
The push for a Community Kitchen all began when the late Bill Reid of the Cloverdale District Chamber of Commerce, along with Surrey RCMP, asked the church to house the soup kitchen after the former Cloverdale Mall was torn down, leaving the church groups running the soup kitchen and Cloverdale’s Extreme Weather shelter without a home.
Three years ago, the city tore down the old Cloverdale mall to make way for Cloverdale West Village, a multi-phase residential and commercial development.
The mall was home to the Shepherd’s Inn Soup Kitchen and Cloverdale’s extreme weather shelter, originally constructed thanks to combined efforts by the Surrey RCMP Cloverdale Chamber of Commerce, Cloverdale BIA, Rotary Club, Cloverdale Christian Fellowship and the City of Surrey.
With the mall gone, the extreme weather shelter relocated to Cloverdale Christian Fellowship at 102-178802 66 Avenue. And the soup kitchen moved to Pacific Community Church at 5337 180 Street.
For more on the initiative, visit www.pacificcommunity.ca.