Claire Knowles became homeless after her husband died in a car crash in 2009. Bob Harlow found himself on the street when his mobile home was condemned. With nowhere to go for a hot meal, they were just two of the people who relied on the Friendly Kitchen.
“It was hard carrying everything you owned in a suitcase or backpack,” says Claire. “It was very important to know that the kitchen was there.”
When the Friendly Kitchen’s facility was destroyed by a fire in April 2011, the Capital Region’s poor and homeless residents faced the prospect of going hungry. The kitchen’s staff relocated to a church basement that very night – not missing a single meal – but the organization needed a long-term solution to their problem.
“The community really stepped up. The volunteer groups were amazing,” says Friendly Kitchen Executive Director Jennifer Lombardo. “They got all the food they needed to feed these people. We were able to feed people because of the churches and volunteer groups. They stepped up.”
CDFA expedited an Emergency Community Development Block Grant of $500,000 to help rebuild. We also awarded $300,000 in tax credits to the Friendly Kitchen in their fundraising efforts. On December 27, 2012, the new Friendly Kitchen opened a new 5,800 square foot facility.
“CDFA coming through was huge,” says Lombardo. “The staff was great to work with.” Today the soup kitchen serves a total average of 200 meals each day – breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Two people who no longer attend are Bob and Claire. Through this all, they found love. They found each other and they found a home to live in.
"It’s those stories that I think people don’t see enough of," Lombardo says about Bob and Claire. "If they were to come in here and chat with a lot of our guests they would hear many more of those than I think people would imagine."
“You’re just one step away from being homeless,” says Bob. “That kitchen was a lifesaver for me.”