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Food kitchen in Scranton reopens after renovations

Since April, the St. Francis of Assisi Kitchen in Scranton has been undergoing a once-in-a-generation renovation, said executive director Rob Williams.

They either fixed or replaced everything, he said.

"We considered every single element of the building, every single element of the appliances, of the landscaping," he said.

On Monday, July 31, the doors to the kitchen were open to diners for the first time in 10-weeks.

Head Chef Selena Hitchens used the kitchen’s new shiny stainless steel equipment and a donation of ground beef to make empanadas.

“Having all the new equipment, having everything being able to work and not beating on things for it to turn on is perfect for us right now," she said.

Hitchens and the volunteers now cook under brighter LED lighting.

In the past, the kitchen didn’t have the space to store large perishable donations. New refrigerators and freezers were added during the renovation. Produce has its own walk-in cooler, said Williams. The kitchen’s bathrooms are now handicap accessible.

Sidewalks that were tripping hazards were replaced, said Williams. A constantly damp glass enclosure on the front of the building was rebuilt and a takeout window added, just in case the kitchen has to offer grab and go meals again, like during the pandemic, he said.

"It means so much to us to be back in our space," Williams said.

Bishop of Scranton Joseph Bambera offered a blessing before the renovated kitchen officially opened at 11 a.m. Around 15 people stood outside praying with the bishop.

“We gather now to bless this restored building. New and improved, it will continue to be a place where the corporal works of mercy, of feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, and many other works of mercy are lived out in witness to our faith in Jesus Christ," he prayed.

Kat Bolus is the community reporter for the newly-formed WVIA News Team. She is a former reporter and columnist at The Times-Tribune, a Scrantonian and cat mom.
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