Sonshine Soup Kitchen Buys 6 Crystal Ave., for its New Home

Phase Two has been a long time coming but is now on the drawing board for the Sonshine Soup Kitchen, which announced earlier this month that it has purchased a new home for its services in downtown Derry – right next door to its current location.

Sonshine is now the owner of 6 Crystal Ave., the former home of Fred Fuller Oil.

Sonshine Executive Director Cynthia Dwyer said, “As we undergo renovations and fitting up our new home, we’re thrilled our entire operation, from offices, storage and more to the kitchen and dining room, will finally be under one roof.”

Board Chairwoman Linda German added, “This entire three-year search has been a marvelous team effort. Board members past and present, staff, volunteers, and our great friends at the Town of Derry have made this dream come true. Best of all we’ve been guided on this amazing roller coaster ride by commercial real estate broker Ralph Valentine. For us, every day has been Valentine’s Day!”

At the annual meeting of the Sonshine Soup Kitchen, Dwyer said, “With the encouragement of the Town and with our own unflagging determination, we searched for a long, long time. Stubbornness has paid off – at last. Now that we have a ‘bricks and mortar’ reality in sight, we’ll be launching Phase II of Build to Feed, our fund-raising campaign.”

In 2013 the organization raised $50,000 in 50 days to match a challenge grant for Phase I, she said, adding, “We fully expect wonderful support from all sectors of the Greater Derry community and beyond: individuals, civic groups, religious institutions, businesses, foundations and more. To help us reach our goal, we are expanding our Board (with) five new members.”

The kickoff for meeting the challenge grant was spearheaded by volunteers Jean Roalsvig of Derry and Joanne Packard and Jean Manley of Londonderry, and took place in the First Baptist Church lower level at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 7. They had 185 donors and reached their financial goal, and had on hand, according to figures discussed at the annual meeting, $215,340.

At the annual meeting it was announced that Brenda Bach, Bill Carlisle and Janice Mobsby were retiring as members of the board of directors. Unanimously voted in as returning board members were Cyndy Cleary and Margie Ives, both of Derry.

New members to the expanded board with a view to dealing with Phase II are Londonderry residents Diane Swinarski for a two-year term, Jean Manley for a two-year term and Dennis Braje for a three-year term; and Marilyn Olbricht of Derry for a three-year term.

The start of Build to Feed Phase II will require increased fundraising. Dwyer pointed out that over the course of the prior 26 years, the Sonshine Soup Kitchen has served 287,395 dinners to anyone in need in the Greater Derry area. While numbers have dropped slightly in the last year, with many seeking assistance in other towns with more resources, others who have died or been incarcerated, the need for Sonshine Soup Kitchen’s services remains constant in service to single parent families, veterans, minimum wage workers, the elderly, homeless teens and adults. Those served range in age from 6 to 91.

The 6 Crystal Ave., building will allow Sonshine to have everything under one roof – kitchen, dining room, ample food storage, offices, free clothing cupboard and handicapped accessible bathrooms.