‘It’s a tremendous loss’: Fredericton’s Community Kitchen mourns co-founder

Click to play video: 'Founding member of Fredericton community kitchen dies at 74'
Founding member of Fredericton community kitchen dies at 74
WATCH: George Piers died Friday at the age of 74, leaving behind a legacy as a long-serving teacher and founding member of the Fredericton Community Kitchen. Jeremy Keefe has more – Jan 8, 2018

Gone but not forgotten is a sentence that accurately sums up how the staff of Fredericton’s Community Kitchen feels after co-founder George Piers passed away on Jan. 5.

“It’s a tremendous loss,” said office clerk Sheryl Mercer who was hired to work at the kitchen by Piers himself.

Piers was instrumental in bringing a service to help feed those in need in the New Brunswick capital with the first meal served on Dec. 8, 1982.

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The belief was that up to 50 people might use the facility.

Over the past 35 years, it’s grown so much that 16,000 meals were served in November alone, some served in house, some delivered to another location and many going to hungry students.

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“We all say we have a vision, we all say we want to help, we all say we want to make a difference,” said the board of directors’ president Jennifer Hanson. “But George did that.”

“We have grown tremendously and without George’s vision and action, we wouldn’t be where we are today,” she said.

Piers served as executive director for the Community Kitchen until retiring in 2014.

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Therese Murray knew she had big shoes to fill when she took over the role following his retirement and says she was and will continue to be inspired by him.

“George has basically worn every hat that one could when it relates to this organization,” she explained. “Creating the organization, working and helping cook, and make the toast and make the soup and serve it.”

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A teacher of 34 years, Piers is said to have had an even greater dedication to helping ensure youth got the best start possible, both each day and in life.

“He could see how just by meeting some basic needs that someone’s potential could grow,” she said.

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Click to play video: 'Saint John soup kitchen strives to stay open as often as possible, despite severe weather'
Saint John soup kitchen strives to stay open as often as possible, despite severe weather

Mercer said in her many years working with Piers, she saw that very dedication regularly.

“There was a young fellow who came in here who was having a problem with drugs,” she explained. “But George was able to talk to him, got him in a program, helped refer him to addictions services and he worked for us part-time and during that part-time, it built him up enough and gave him enough support that he actually went to community college.”

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Piers was appointed to the Order of New Brunswick in 2005 and received the Queen’s Jubilee Medal in 2013, as well as the Distinguished Citizen award in 2014.

Despite all the accolades, Mercer said he always remained genuine and treated everyone equally and fairly.

“He treated us all with respect and therefore, we treated with [him with] respect.”

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