Christina Moen, left, Paul McDonald, center, and Aline Poulin gather Thursday in Waterville. The three are working together with others to create a new soup kitchen to serve Waterville and its surrounding communities. Michael G. Seamans/Morning Sentinel

WATERVILLE — A group of volunteers is trying to raise $5 million to establish a new soup kitchen in Waterville since the Sacred Heart Soup Kitchen on Pleasant Street closed earlier this year.

Aline Poulin and a handful of people who formerly cooked and volunteered at Sacred Heart have created a new entity, Waterville Area Soup Kitchen, formed a board of directors, hired a lawyer and accountant to help with the effort, established a nonprofit corporation registered with the state and plan to ask for tax-deductible donations.

Poulin, 74, of Waterville, fronted the board $10,000 she had socked away for her own long-term care and hired A.E. Hodsdon Engineers to do a feasibility study and cost analysis on a 5,000-square-foot building that is within walking distance of downtown and has been identified as a possible site for the soup kitchen.

Poulin, a Waterville native who worked 31 years as a senior property manager and contracting officer for the federal government, said the board is exploring whether the facade and basic structure of the building could be maintained and the building itself gutted and rehabilitated, or whether they should start from scratch.

“I know buildings, inside out,” Poulin said. “We went to look at the building, and it really is in a good location. I can’t disclose it because our attorney is in negotiations with the owner of that property.”

The Sacred Heart Soup Kitchen on Pleasant Street planned to close temporarily after the pandemic hit in March, but the church and two of its other buildings were put up for sale. The soup kitchen board, whose members were elderly, decided to close the kitchen for good after 40 years.

At its peak, the soup kitchen served hot meals to between 80 and 140 people five days a week, and was serving about 45 a day when it closed. A separate entity from the church, the soup kitchen paid $200 in rent to the church for using its basement space.

Poulin said a new soup kitchen would serve people from not only Waterville, but other communities including Winslow, Benton, Albion, Sidney, Skowhegan and Fairfield. Her reason for launching the effort was simple — ensuring hungry and homeless people have hot meals.

“Put yourself in their shoes,” she said. “They’re alone, they have no one, they don’t speak to anyone all day, they’re alone in their body and their hunger.”

Though Poulin did not volunteer at the Sacred Heart Soup Kitchen, she said she is friends with one of the volunteers.

“He kept saying to me, ‘We’ve got to do something about feeding the poor,'” she recalled.

Poulin said she tried to convince the former Sacred Heart Soup Kitchen board to transfer everything to the group wanting to start a new soup kitchen, but the board opted not to do that and kept the Sacred Heart Soup Kitchen name.

She and some volunteers of the former kitchen met, formed a separate, new board and elected officers. She is president of the board and executive director of Waterville Area Soup Kitchen, vice president is Austin Segel, who cooked for the former kitchen, and former volunteers Paul McDonald and Roger Routhier are treasurers.

Volunteer Don Reny is the board’s advisor, and Christina Moen, an employee of Kennebec Savings Bank where donations for the effort are being accepted, is recording secretary, according to Poulin. She said anyone wanting to help with the effort may contact her (Poulin) at 872-8657 or [email protected]

People may mail donations to Waterville Area Soup Kitchen, KSB/Waterville, 226 Main St., Waterville, ME 04901, with checks payable to “Waterville Area Soup Kitchen, donations for startup funds.”

There should be no “The” in front of Waterville Area Soup Kitchen, or donations will not be accepted, according to Poulin. People also may mail donations directly to Poulin at 13 Barnet Ave., Waterville, ME 04901, also noting the checks are for startup funds for “Waterville Area Soup Kitchen.”

Meanwhile, the board, whose members are mostly in their 70s and 80s, are seeking younger members and those willing to help with the soup kitchen effort and be on the fundraising committee. Poulin, who has Parkinson’s Disease, said it is a struggle, day-to-day, but she considers herself very fortunate and very comfortable.

AN AMBITIOUS PROJECT

Poulin said she realized people might look at $5 million as a lot of money for a soup kitchen project, but she noted that built into the plan is an endowment that will preclude the board from having to raise funds for 20 years.

The $5 million would include about $2 million for construction costs, about $6,000 a month for utilities and maintenance for 20 years, $67,000 a year for day-to-day expenses, $100,000 for equipment, and $75,000 annually for a soup kitchen manager, insurance and a vehicle, according to Poulin.

She said they were able to get three stand-up freezers in good condition from the former Sacred Heart kitchen.

“That’s a hefty fundraiser, but people need to understand a 20-year project in escrow will build up interest, and no one will have to worry about money coming from somewhere else. We need prayers. We know that our goal is going to be seen as unattainable to people, but they have to realize there’s a 20-year buffer built into that figure.”

Poulin is scheduled to speak to the Waterville Rotary Club on Monday, not to ask for funds, but to explain the project and raise awareness, she said.

The first donation to the soup kitchen effort came from the Sisters of St. Joseph of Lyon, of Winslow, according to Poulin. The Sisters donated to the Ignatian Volunteer Corps, a Catholic lay organization that matches seasoned professionals over 50 with charities and nonprofits seeking skilled volunteer services. That donation enabled the soup kitchen board to procure the services of volunteer JoAnn Lemire to assist with the project, Poulin said.

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.