By John Lynds
It started as an idea and a way to address what Sandra Nijjar saw as a growing problem in East Boston. Nijjar was seeing an ever increasing number of homeless in and around Maverick and Central Squares. So a year ago Nijjar recruited Pastor Britta Carlson, John Ribeiro, Jr, Lydia Edwards and Baljinder Nijjar to establish the neighborhood’s first ever soup kitchen.
Now a year later, the East Boston Community Soup Kitchen in the basement of Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church on Paris Street is going strong and feeding over 100 people a week that are both homeless or just in need of a hot meal.
To celebrate its year anniversary, the Soup Kitchen is hosting a party and fundraiser at the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center’s Maverick Square location on Saturday October 14 at 6 p.m.
“Celebrating our one year anniversary of operation of the East Boston Community Soup Kitchen feels incredibly gratifying,” said Nijjar. “I can’t believe its been a year already since we first launched our soup kitchen. I must say that although it has not been easy on us at times, this amazing initiative is a reality, thanks to the kind and noble hearts of our soup kitchen core group and our devoted hard working volunteers who believe in this cause, and are passionate about helping others. Words cannot describe the amazing work we do each week, and the lives we impact in a positive way.”
Nijjar added that she is a strong believer that each one of us has a purpose in this world, and we are guided, somehow, throughout our lives to find that purpose.
“I think I have found mine,” Nijjar said of her involvement with the Soup Kitchen.
Since establishing the Soup Kitchen, dozens of Eastie residents have volunteered each Tuesday at the church to provide both lunch and dinner to he neighborhood’s most vulnerable residents.
With tons of local support from area restaurants and businesses, the Soup Kitchen has also received weekly donations from places like Panera Bread and Longhorn Steak House.
“Panera Bread has been donating bread every week, Longhorn Steak House donated hamburgers and other items, and told us to call any time we needed something,” said Nijjar. “Then you have local places like Topacio, as well as La Hacienda pitching in every week. It has been a real community effort.”
Nijjar said the group’s long term goal is to be able to provide a fresh hot meal at least twice a day, and to provide some clean clothing, a space to shower, and a place to sleep, especially during the cold winters.
“When a community comes together it can do great things, and this is just one example,” said Rep. Adrian Madaro. “A lot of times in East Boston we don’t need outside help to solve a problem because our residents pull together, consolidate resources and find a solution themselves.”