More than $10K raised for Lethbridge Soup Kitchen after funding decline

Click to play video: 'Lethbridge Soup Kitchen sees substantial dip in funding ahead of Mustard Seed merge'
Lethbridge Soup Kitchen sees substantial dip in funding ahead of Mustard Seed merge
WATCH ABOVE: One of Lethbridge’s longstanding non-profits is struggling with a lack of funding, due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic. Eloise Therien explains how the community has stepped in to help and what’s next for the organization. – Mar 22, 2021

The Lethbridge Soup Kitchen has been serving hot meals to the less fortunate for more than 30 years, currently working out of their location adjacent to the Lethbridge Alpha House on 2 Avenue N.

In 2017, the non-profit expanded to serve three meals a day instead of one, working to meet the need in the community.

Despite being as busy as ever and sometimes feeding more than 100 clients per day, the non-profit has been dealing with a lack of funding in recent months.

“Our donations have decreased substantially, probably to half of what they were,” said Bill Ginther, the executive director of the Lethbridge Soup Kitchen.

He said the decrease is due in part to the continued lack of fundraising events as a result of COVID-19 restrictions, adding the decline came shortly after Christmas.

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Although the soup kitchen is a non-profit, Ginther said operational expenses such as natural gas still add up.

“Our annual budget is $240,000, so that gives you what it costs to operate for a year,” he said.

“We’ve been fortunate over the many years — we’ve always been able to meet our budget — (but) this is the first year we’ve seen such a significant drop.”

Last week, Ginther took to Facebook and other platforms to let the community know about the soup kitchen’s situation. Since posting the call-out, more than $10,000 in donations have poured in.

“We wanted to make sure that we’re still able to provide three meals a day,” he said. “I’m really pleased with people’s response.”

Ginther added that the soup kitchen has always been funded through support from the community and does not rely on government money.

However, plans are underway to merge with the Mustard Seed and begin operating under that organization’s name at a new location.

The Mustard Seed is looking to open an emergency sober shelter sometime this summer, depending on the approval process.

“Even when we merge with the Mustard Seed, (we) will still need to look after our own expenses for a time because we won’t merge instantly — there’s construction to happen and so on,” Ginther said.

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Click to play video: 'Coronavirus: Outbreak at Lethbridge shelter leaves some worried for safety'
Coronavirus: Outbreak at Lethbridge shelter leaves some worried for safety

He said the Mustard Seed opportunity will allow the sober and non-sober communities to receive support at separate locations, making sure everyone is looked after.

The proposed location for the site is at 110 13 St. S. A proposal to have the site rezoned so that the plan can move forward is expected to be debated by Lethbridge city council on Tuesday afternoon.

“The Mustard Seed doesn’t want to come to town and duplicate services that are there,” said Byron Bradley, the managing director of the Mustard Seed. “So it was such an easy decision — such a great decision — to align ourselves with the Lethbridge Soup Kitchen.”

The public hearing is set to take place at 4 p.m. in council chambers.

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