LEWISTON — After going months without serving a hot meal, an anonymous man has offered to outfit the Hope Haven Gospel Mission in new kitchen equipment, a donation estimated at $15,000.
"Grateful doesn't even come close (to describing his feelings)," Executive Director John Robbins said Thursday.
The city's largest homeless shelter had been without a kitchen after giving most of its appliances away in May to another nonprofit. The intention was to clear the way for a donation of commercial kitchen equipment from St. Mary's Health System. But when it arrived, the electrical system in the Lincoln Street shelter wasn't compatible with most of the equipment without costly conversions. The shelter was stuck.
Robbins said the donor read about the shelter's plight in the Sun Journal last week.
"I talked to his representative this morning when he presented us with the first cashier's check," Robbins said. "He said when his boss ... saw the article, 'He said, I want to do that; I want to help,' and that's what's happened."
A number of people also came forward with cash donations and offers, including a man with a six-burner Garland stove. Two pieces of St. Mary's equipment were rewired easily, a deep fryer and a range oven. The anonymous donor will finish off the kitchen with a new gas convection oven, a garbage disposal, a hood and fan.
"He is also going to provide for us hot water on demand for our kitchen and all of the costs that go into installing all of the equipment," Robbins said. "He doesn't want any attention drawn to himself. This is the only way we have to thank him."
The other cash donations will go toward the shelter's kitchen wish list, he said, things like a nice, deep pan.
Hope Haven's old kitchen had a 10-burner stove with two ovens, both broken, and only three or four working burners. With that, it was able to serve cooked meals six nights a week and breakfast seven days a week, including at least one hot breakfast.
For three months it's been down to cold breakfasts, no formal dinners.
"We'll be able to do a lot more, a lot quicker," Robbins said. "One of the things I'm looking forward to is we'll be able to deep fry items we haven't even purchased in the past because we had no way of preparing them."
He estimated the new equipment will come online over the next three to four weeks.