It started as an idea as 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. Nijjar recruited Pastor Britta Carlson, John Ribeiro, Jr, City Councilor Lydia Edwards and Baljinder Nijjar to establish the neighborhood’s first ever soup kitchen.
Now three years 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 250 families in need every Tuesday that are homeless or just in need of a hot meal.
Nijjar works with local businesses and restaurants to secure donations, recruits volunteers to help her in the kitchen and handles much of the cleaning. She gets to know all of her clients on a personal level and frequently visits guests in rehabilitation facilities and accompanies them to court appearances.
For her efforts, Nijjar was selected as one of this year’s Myra Kraft Community MVP Award winners for her volunteer efforts at East Boston Community Soup Kitchen. The Kraft Family provided Nijjar with a $10,000 grant at Gillette Stadium on Aug. 20 to help further the Soup Kitchen’s reach.
“I would like to thank the Patriots Foundation for selecting the East Boston Soup Kitchen as one of this year’s Myra Kraft Community MVP Award recipients,” said Nijjar. “We are humbled by the generous donation, which will help us cover the fee of our full-time AmeriCorps member. This will be our only paid employee and they will assist with administrative duties and volunteer coordination. This new role will be instrumental as we continue to grow, with the ultimate goal of opening our own shelter.”
In addition to the meals, Nijjar and the Soup Kitchen provide blood pressure checks, immunization clinics, donated clothing, free haircuts and assistance with housing applications. She epitomizes kindness and patience while providing invaluable support to those in need.
“We’re thrilled to see Sandra’s hard work and selflessness acknowledged by the New England Patriots Foundation,” said the nonprofit in a statement. “She’s worked tirelessly to provide shelter, food, and emotional support to those most in need. Sandra directs the donation of nutritious meals from local businesses, coordinates volunteers, and leads our executive team. Our clients’ challenges become her challenges: she often accompanies them to court, and visits them regularly as they recover. With Sandra leading the charge, East Boston Community Soup Kitchen has grown rapidly. With this generous award, we’re looking forward to reaching even more members of our community.”
Every year since 1998, the Kraft family and the New England Patriots have been celebrating those who give their time to help others. The program was originally known as the Community Quarterback Awards and were presented to those who exemplify leadership, dedication and a commitment to improving their communities through volunteerism.
In 2011, the awards were renamed in honor of the late Myra Kraft who committed her life to volunteering. As part of the New England Patriots Foundation’s ongoing Celebrate Volunteerism initiative, the Kraft family hosts a special luncheon each year to show their appreciation for local volunteers.
On hand to congratulate the award winners were Patriots Chairman and CEO Robert Kraft, New England Patriots Foundation President Joshua Kraft and Patriots and Pro Football Hall of Famer and Patriots Executive Director of Community Affairs Andre Tippett.
“This event has always been one of my favorites because it not only highlights the organization that is positively impacting the lives of others in our communities, but it also allows us to shine a spotlight on each organization’s most- deserving volunteer,” said Robert Kraft. “The stories describing the many volunteers who are nominated each year are inspirational. They serve as a reminder of how much good there really is in the world and how committed some people are to making their community a better place.”