By Christopher Roberson
Since Citizens Inn merged with Haven from Hunger in July 2017, Citizens Inn Executive Director Corey Jackson had been planning a multiphase overhaul of the Wallis Street building. That process began on April 6 when Mayor Edward Bettencourt smashed a 16-pound Husky sledgehammer through the wall of the current kitchen.
“I’m very excited to have this happening and I am ready to tackle this wall,” he said before taking the first swing. In addition to Bettencourt and Jackson, Citizens Inn Program Director Kate Benashski and State Rep. Theodore Speliotis also had a turn with the sledgehammer.
Jackson said the cost of renovating the kitchen is currently estimated at $180,000, and it will take “two to three” weeks to complete.
“It’s way overdue, the time was right from the moment we took over,” he said. “The kitchen now is from 1950-something.”
Jackson said the renovation will result in a kitchen that is three times the size of the current cooking area. “It will be much more comfortable; it will be up to code,” said Jackson. There will also be a three-bay sink, a convection oven, a baking area and larger walk-in food storage units.
Jackson said the revamped kitchen will allow the nonprofit organization to expand its free summer lunch program and bring back the Mobile Markets.
In addition, he said Citizens Inn Haven from Hunger will be partnering with another nonprofit to launch a culinary arts program this fall. Jackson said the kitchen renovation project will be followed by other improvements, such as a dining hall and office space on the second floor.
Ward 2 Councillor Peter McGinn expressed his support for the project. “I was pleased to attend the Citizens Inn Haven from Hunger wall-breaking,” he said. “Upgrades at the facility will help Citizens continue to do the important work they do in the community.”