FAIRBANKS — A busy year of fundraising by Stone Soup Cafe was capped with an exclamation point on Thursday, when the soup kitchen learned it had received a Rasmuson Foundation grant that could allow it to move into a permanent location next month.
The $135,000 grant will allow Stone Soup to complete remodeling at a new Gaffney Street location, board president Jennifer Jolis said. She said the organization, which had run out of funds to work on the project, will use the money to buy a walk-in cooler, shelving, flooring, furniture and insulation.
Jolis, who isn’t particularly religious, said the experience has made her believe in miracles.
“It has been unbelievable,” she said. “It’s been beautiful and gracious and wonderful.”
Stone Soup Cafe has been in search of a long-term location for the past four years, moving from the United Methodist Church to the David Salmon Tribal Hall to its current location at the old Eagles Hall, which is currently being used by Radiant Church. Jolis said they’ve had good partners during each of those stops but that climbing rents made it clear that they needed to find their own home.
Last year Stone Soup distributed 50,000 meals. The organization provides hot breakfasts and sack lunches for needy Fairbankans.
Bread Line, which oversees the Stone Soup program, has owned the Gaffney location since 1994 and rented it out for years to provide income to support its operations.
In October 2011, the Bread Line board voted to pursue a permanent move to the 3,800-square-foot building.
Even before Stone Soup leaders learned of the Rasmuson grant, it had been a good year. The organization had received $172,000 in funding, including a $150,000 state grant, before this week’s announcement.
Local contractors had also been generous, providing more than $250,000 worth of in-kind contributions to remodel the aging building, Jolis said.
“Whenever there was a need, people responded,” Jolis said. “It’s just been phenomenal.”
The Rasmuson funds include $100,000 in secured money, along with an additional $35,000 that will be distributed as matching funds to other contributions.
Jolis said she’s hopeful the permanent location will allow Stone Soup to expand its offerings.
In addition to meals for the needy, she said the location could allow the organization to provide workforce training programs and rental space for other groups.
Although Stone Soup was out of money just a few days ago, Jolis said a year of positive momentum had made the board confident that a January move to the new location was realistic.
“We always knew it would happen one way or another,” Jolis said. “We just didn’t know how.”
Contact staff writer Jeff Richardson at 459-7518. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMbusiness.