Free lunch program a success in Strong

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STRONG — Selectmen on Tuesday were told that the monthly free lunch program at the Forster Memorial Building has been resoundingly successful.

The Community Table Soup Kitchen has served thousands of home-cooked meals the past seven years, according to project leader Pastor Mike Senecal.

“Seventy percent of our clients come from Strong,” Senecal said.

The program is sponsored by Quaker Hill Christian Church in Unity, which has its own Community Table program. The volunteers serve up to 500 lunches during the five days they are open, and the cooking is outstanding, Senecal said.

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Choices include homemade soup, entrees, sandwiches, biscuits, rolls, dessert and beverages.

Those who need canned goods, other food staples, personal care items and household products can take what they need from boxes available.

The Good Shepherd Food Bank in Auburn inspects the kitchen and dining facility each year, Senecal said.

“We were voted No. 1 in the state overall for soup kitchens,” he said. Criteria included atmosphere, quality of the food, presentation and friendliness.

“The fellowship is almost as important as the meals,” Selectman Rob Elliott said. “People get a chance to spend time together and talk.”

Donations to the project, along with grants, have helped purchase a new microwave, a steam table, meat slicer, hot dog grill and other items that will remain with the town, if the Community Table Soup Kitchen is ever discontinued.

In other matters, custodian Tonia Boyd presented options for replacing flooring in the Town Office section of the Forster Memorial Building. She recommended a combination of tile and carpet for high-traffic areas, including the entryway, the office foyer and the bathroom.

Selectmen approved spending up to $3,600 for the project.

The original Forster Memorial Building was a gift to the town many years ago, and the ell that includes the Town Office and library were added later.

Selectmen also reviewed the Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires public facilities to be available to all individuals.

Individuals in wheelchairs can’t enter or exit the Town Office or the rest of the building without assistance.

Selectmen want to consider adding an electronic push-button opener to the exterior door or installing a new door that includes the adaptive opener.

The Forster building and offices also don’t have handicapped-accessible bathrooms. Two are in the basement, where the kitchen and meeting rooms are located.

Working against a year-end budget deadline to plan for 2018 town expenses, selectmen also will review urgent repairs, replacement needs and related costs.

Residents Mary Reed and Heather Powell told selectmen they would be interested in organizing a community event and decorating for the Christmas holidays. They also hope to gather volunteers to plan other seasonal events in the community.

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