DERRY — It’s a place for food, friendship and serving others.
Sonshine Soup Kitchen in Derry offers a daily dose of not only a nutritious free meal to those in need, but a strong volunteer network representing area businesses, schools, churches and individuals wanting to pitch in and help.
And it’s that list of devoted volunteers making Sonshine a shining spot in many people’s lives everyday, according to soup kitchen officials.
Christine Fudala, executive director, said the food mission could not function without its volunteers, with about eight to 10 coming in every day to either cook meals, serve, or do after meal cleanup.
Fudala said there is always a need for new volunteers at Sonshine. It’s also the time of year when donations are greatly needed, either food or monetary, to support Sonshine’s mission throughout the year.
For more than 25 years, the soup kitchen originally operated out of the basement at First Baptist Church at the corner of Crystal Avenue and Broadway, welcoming people every day to the lower level spot for food, friendship and support.
The church space got tight, prompting a search for that permanent new home, a place close to the center of Derry that would offer better space to serve its clients. Sonshine moved to its current location on Crystal Avenue in 2017.
Right now, the soup kitchen has about two dozen teams representing schools, churches, businesses and organizations from all over the region who come to prepare and serve meals.
Some have come for years — others are more new at the soup kitchen schedule.
Richard and Barbara Rockwell of Hampstead have volunteered at Sonshine since 2009. The couple will head to Florida soon to spend the winter months, but spend warmer days during the summer helping at the soup kitchen.
“They come in, they are happy,” Fudala said. “They just love everybody. They keep coming back and we are not complaining.”
Fudala said it’s not just people coming in to perform tasks; volunteers take an interest in the people who frequent Sonshine, get to know their stories, and offer friendship and support.
“They just care about the people who eat here,” Fudala said.
For the Rockwells, it’s just something they want to do while spending the summer in New Hampshire.
“It gives you a glow, helping feed people who have less,” Richard said.
The couple, strong in faith, say they owe their good health and lives to God, and want to spread some of that caring to others.
“It brings so much joy to my heart,” Barbara said. “To be here, I feel it’s a privilege to see these wonderful people. And I miss them during the winter.”
Sonshine’s summer data shows, on average, about 40 meals served up daily. August numbers also had 774 hours of volunteer time logged in at the soup kitchen.
Volunteers come in teams, in single numbers or even family members. Some come in at a last minute request to fill in for volunteers who can’t make, including a recent team of residents from Granite House in Derry, stepping up to help out.
Carmen Zavorotny of Londonderry shares volunteering duties at Sonshine with her son Andrew, 14, a freshman at Londonderry High.
The mother/son team started helping at the soup kitchen nearly two years ago.
For Zavorotny, it’s a way to share time with her son, while also helping the community. It also teaches Andrew all about community, life skills, and why it’s important to help others.
He is learning good lessons, his mother said.
“I like getting to meet everyone,” Andrew added. “It feels to good to help.”
Sonshine is located at 6 Crystal Ave. Anyone wanting to volunteer or support Sonshine can find out more at sonshinesoupkitchen.org.