There had already been a few setbacks to the start of construction of Mid City Nutrition’s new building since the soup kitchen purchased property in Port Huron three years ago.
The latest delay is the ongoing novel coronavirus crisis.
Since coming out of retirement to the role last November, Executive Director Alice Rieves said Mid City had expected to start work on the new property, 830 Griswold St., in mid-March. Then, after cases of the coronavirus were confirmed locally, she said they went on lockdown like everyone else.
Unable to hold a meeting, Rieves said the start of construction has been pushed back.
“This spring — we are going to put a shovel in the ground by the end of spring,” she said Wednesday. “That means, I think we have up until the beginning of June. We are going to start that build.”
So, how did we get here?
Board officials and past directors at Mid City have said moving the soup kitchen’s operations from the basement of the St. Martin Lutheran Church, 805 Chestnut St., where it’s been for more than 30 years, was purposefully a slow process as funds were raised for construction on Griswold.
That property, at the intersection with Eighth Street, was purchased for $68,000 in 2017. The transaction came with the help of $100,000 in federal housing dollars facilitated by the city of Port Huron and earmarked for the project.
By June 2018, however, Mid City officials said they found extensive damage to an existing facility on site while preparing for renovations. That building was razed, leaving a single structure standing at the back of the property. Organizers ultimately opted to construct a new building, while retaining the intent of the move — accommodating additional needed storage and kitchen space.
An original cost estimated at $700,000 rose to just over $1 million, Mid City’s Board Chairwoman Lisa Morse said last July, At the time, the soup kitchen reportedly had more than $350,000 in a building fund with several hundred thousand expected in in-kind donations.
Morse is still the organization’s listed board chair but couldn’t be immediately reached as of Thursday.
Rieves had shared information on fundraising in a Facebook post on Mid City’s page in early January, adding they hoped to have a new building done by Thanksgiving this year. The update was met with a lot of questions.
On Wednesday, the director said she understood people’s skepticism — that’d it’d been a long time since the project was announced.
As of this month, she said they had about $450,000 “raised in cash in the bank.” She said she wasn’t immediately sure what they expected in-kind or what had been pledged, nor was she sure yet how fundraising would proceed amid the coronavirus pandemic.
But Rieves added, “When they see a shovel in the ground and they see work being done, fundraising will be a little easier.”
Rieves had retired in 2016, and before she returned late last year, Mid City Nutrition saw two different executive directors replace her. Dawn Jackson left for another job in 2018. Her successor, Susan Bennett, left last year, but reasons for her departure were not publicly shared.
A busier soup kitchen in a time of crisis
Plans for a new building have shown about 7,200 square feet of space with an entrance in the shape of a soup can, expanding space to welcome a teaching kitchen and more seating space.
Rieves said things like a teaching facility were still in the works, though she noted the building would be basic. She said there’d been “a few little changes but nothing major” to plans. For now, she said their big focus was on helping people get through the coronavirus pandemic.
Mid City isn’t holding its traditional daily in-person meals, but Rieves said they’re still busier, accommodating residents with pick-ups for lunch and dinner.
In March, she said they were doing about 200 meals a day. As of Wednesday, she said they’re at between 140 and 160 lunches, estimating it to be a 20 percent increase. She didn’t have dinner numbers but similarly estimated being up another 15 to 20 percent.
For just the month of March, Rieves said Mid City was up by 909 meals in 2020 over 2019.
She said the “community has just stepped up with to-go containers and takeout juices” to help with the switch to takeout. Volunteers continue to make meals inside, passing them out outside while wearing masks and maintaining proper distances.
They also occasionally wheel out a rack of other food, depending on what they’ve had access to, such as gallons of milk donated frozen and baked goods.
For more information on Mid City Nutrition, visit midcitynutritionsoupkitchen.com, the soup kitchen’s Facebook page or call (810) 982-9261. Meals are distributed 11 a.m. to noon Monday through Saturday and 4 to 5 p.m. Sunday through Friday at 805 Chestnut St. in Port Huron.
Rieves said there would also be a mobile food truck from 10:30 a.m. until the food is gone this Saturday in the parking lot of St. Martin.
Jackie Smith is the local government reporter for the Times Herald. Have questions or a story idea? Contact her at (810) 989-6270 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @Jackie20Smith.
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