To say that space is highly coveted at the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen, is an understatement. Just ask the patrons who frequent TASK’s Share Project – an arts program that was regularly suspended from mid-November to January when its space was taken over by holiday donations. But this year promises to be different since renovations at the Escher Street site are expected to be complete in time for a grand opening ribbon cutting ceremony on May 3.
“TASK’s open house is our way of showing gratitude while showcasing our addition and making people aware that we are a soup kitchen that provides other services too,” said TASK Executive Director Joyce E. Campbell. “Thanks to the community we now have a space that not only allows us to further our mission, it’s brightened up the place, and in doing so, furthers our commitment to sustaining a culture of dignity and respect for patrons, volunteers and staff.”
With music, fun and – of course – food as its backdrop, the open house will feature tours of the renovation and the 3,300 square-foot addition.
While the bulk of construction is complete, a few projects, including renovations to the dining room, offices and storage spaces, are still in the works. Even so, some areas in the now 12,000 square-foot facility, are already in use. Among them is a 415 square-foot multi-purpose room that is now the new home of the Share Project. Since the room’s completion earlier this winter, musically gifted patrons have been gathering weekly for regularly scheduled music sessions that many say offers them food for the soul.
While the lively jam sessions are a popular draw for patrons, there are others, like Rufus Elliott who seek calm. A student in the TASK Adult Education Program, Elliott found a nook awash in sunlight – the perfect spot for his weekly tutoring sessions.
“It’s easier to concentrate back here,” Elliott said as he tackled mathematics with volunteer Maureen Clark. Clark, who has been a tutor with TASK for three years, said prior to the renovations, it was sometimes tough to find a quiet, “private space to sit and focus,” with her students. The new space has even inspired Clark to revive a teaching technique she retired because of space constraints.
“I used to bring my laptop when teaching science to my students,” Clark said, explaining that she used the computer to show them, for instance, what an eruption looked like when they were learning about volcanos. “But I was concerned the sounds would disrupt other students, but now there is room for that. It’s really nice.”
In addition to added space for regular programs, the renovation will expand areas used by more than 20 organizations that partner with TASK to offer on-site services to patrons. Before construction staff carved out whatever space they could find to accommodate these agencies which donate much needed services such as flu shots or eye-sight screenings. TASK anticipates the building’s makeover will alleviate that problem too.