The Keys helps the hungry


Volunteer Lottie Ericson, left, helps Soup Kitchen co-ordinator Laura Rose make bannock laced with fruit on Dec. 2.

Volunteer Lottie Ericson, left, helps Soup Kitchen co-ordinator Laura Rose make bannock laced with fruit on Dec. 2.

Diners can feel even better about digging into their meals at the The Keys restaurant this month because part of the price of every meal sold will be going directly to the Hay River Soup Kitchen.

We thought it was a good cause and a good avenue for customers to support the Soup Kitchen,” said The Keys’ manager Curtis Rowe. “It’s all about giving back to the community. We already do, but this is just another way.”

The concept was borrowed from a meal-share program in which restaurants can sign up to donate a portion of their profit from certain dishes to a charity of their choice. While there is a formal structure available, Rowe said it made sense to just deal directly with the Soup Kitchen.

Our goal is to give $1,000,” he said. “I don’t think that’s unachievable at all.”

The support is sorely needed, according to Laura Rose, the operator and manager of the Soup Kitchen. She said this has been one of her busiest years yet, serving 4,200 lunches between January and November – close to the total for the whole year of 2012.

Numbers have gotten incredibly high this year,” Rose told The Hub. “We served 478 hot lunches in August. That’s never happened in a summer month before.”

The Soup Kitchen is open for lunch Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and also serves snacks and hot beverages in the afternoon. It also functions as a food bank that redistributes donated goods to families and individuals in need. All this, according to Rose, is costing about $2,200 per month.

When Curtis came up with this fabulous idea, I just about fell over,” she said. “He’s one of them that answered my call for help.”

Rose blames economic lethargy with the dip in the fortunes of the Soup Kitchen, as well as the increase in the number of people it serves – about 40 per day. She said people who have given generously before are having to keep more for themselves.

Things have been slow in town,” she said. “It shows in the drop in generosity. People have to keep what they have for themselves and are reaching out less.”

Rose, however, was quick to thank the businesses and individuals who do support the Soup Kitchen and said their help over the years has ensured that she can keep the doors open. She hopes to garner more funds as a result of a recent charter to combat poverty signed in Yellowknife, but knows money from the GNWT will be a long time coming.

We were told to go back to our home communities and ask for help there,” said Rose, who attended the anti-poverty conference at which the charter was signed. “We do not have core funding and I do not get paid.”

Rose said she has struggled in the past to keep the lights on at the Soup Kitchen, and has always found a way through the generosity of donors and the many volunteers who make the program possible.

It’s great to see The Keys coming forward with this wonderful idea,” she said. “Maybe they should challenge another restaurant or two to do the same.”

-Sarah Ladik