Saranac Lake church raises funds for kitchen renovation | News, Sports, Jobs

Saranac Lake church raises funds for kitchen renovation | News, Sports, Jobs

From left, Marlene Martin, Cynthia Smith and Mitchel Smith stand in the community room kitchen at the First United Methodist Church of Saranac Lake, which is under renovation and expected to open for weekly free suppers on Wednesday again in the near future.
(Enterprise photo — Aaron Marbone)

SARANAC LAKE — Marlene Martin, Cynthia Smith and Mitchel Smith stepped over buckets of paint and maneuvered around ladders, lifting their feet high to avoid catching them on tarps spread over the floor while an electric saw roared to life.

The community room and kitchen at the First United Methodist Church of Saranac Lake was a construction zone on Tuesday, but as the trio walked around, they spoke of the near future, when the room will again be a bustling place for food, community and ministry.

Since December, the basement room at the church has been under a major renovation as they upgrade the kitchen church members use for gatherings over meals.

“It was time to bring it up to date,” Cynthia wrote in an email.

Much of the kitchen infrastructure dates back to when the church was first built in 1927.

“Generations of Saranac Lakers have enjoyed meals from our kitchen since the church was built,” Cynthia wrote.

She said it is a true “community kitchen” where they hold a free weekly community supper, spaghetti dinners, a non-denominational men’s breakfast twice a month, an annual turkey supper, as well as other fundraisers and community events.

The weekly dinner is what they call their “special ministry,” she said. The program serving free meals has been going on for around 15 years. Before the coronavirus pandemic, they served about 120 people each week. Those numbers rose during the pandemic, when they switched to a meal delivery system — with around 180 to 200 meals delivered each week.

Martin, the community supper director and chairperson of the church’s board of trustees, said they plan to transition back to an eat-in operation in the near future, maybe sometime in May. Cynthia said people have been wondering when the suppers will start again.

Cynthia recalled how college students from North Country Community College, seniors from the Dechantel Apartments across the street and families with armloads of kids would gather in the hall to enjoy a hot meal and the company of others.

At the end, she said everyone pitches in to help clean up. It’s not a requirement of attending. It’s just something they do.

“Some people are hungry for food. Some people are hungry for fellowship,” Cynthia said.

She recalled a single father with five kids who attended week after week. One week, they brought a big card they had signed, along with food they cooked at home and fed the cooking staff.

On top of the contractors working there, Cynthia said church members have spent hours volunteering to tear cupboards and walls down to the original construction, to do whatever jobs they could, or just supervise the work to save on costs.

She said they are “extremely grateful” for this volunteer work.

The total cost of the remodel is estimated at $350,000 and being funded through grants and gifts from local groups, friends and neighbors.

“We are truly blessed to live in a community that comes together when there is a need,” Cynthia wrote.

She said the project is not fully funded yet, and donations are still being accepted at the church.

They’ve been replacing the kitchen floor, working on the aging sewer line, installing a grease trap, doing new plumbing, running better ventilation and updating the electrical works.

“The electrical supply for today’s kitchens was barely able to keep up and the addition of new lines,” Cynthia wrote.

She said the system couldn’t even support more than a few additional crock pots.

The community room held a bunch of new equipment waiting to be installed — including a dishwasher, a stove hood with a fire suppression system, new stoves and serving stations.

“I cannot wait until it’s done,” Martin said, envisioning the community room full of hungry visitors again.

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