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Someone cares for soup kitchen

Association's decision to donate back to the community leads to an upgraded kitchen for a Costa Mesa soup kitchen.

February 08, 2011|By Alexandra Baird, Special to the Daily Pilot
  • Lorrie Sanchez, the head chef at Someone Cares Soup Kitchen, looks at the new walk-in freezer in the facilities newly remodeled kitchen Monday,
Lorrie Sanchez, the head chef at Someone Cares Soup Kitchen,… (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

COSTA MESA — Members of a national restaurant association combined their industry savvy to give a Costa Mesa soup kitchen one big treat: a $100,000 makeover.

Volunteers from the Restaurant Facility Management Assn. renovated Someone Cares Soup Kitchen on 19th Street.

They knocked down walls, converted an old freezer into a walk-in refrigerator, created a new storage area, installed an ice machine and dishwasher, replaced ceiling tiles and added stainless steel prep tables. Workers came in when the kitchen closed at 5 p.m., and worked until 1 or 2 a.m. so there was no disruption in service.

The remodel was completed in less than a week.

"It was like we were an angel that dropped out of the sky," said Tracy Tomson, the executive director of the association. "They didn't know we existed, had no idea. They had a wish list of things they wanted to do and were beginning to think about fundraising and we sort of descended upon them. We took their little list and we doubled it."

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The association is a 5-year-old group consisting of major chain restaurants, such as Taco Bell and T.G.I. Friday's, and their vendors. Last year, the association decided it was time to give back, and board members decided to choose a soup kitchen or homeless shelter in the area they would hold their annual conference. This year's conference was earlier this week in Long Beach.

Association co-founder Joe Robertson said Someone Cares, founded in 1986, was the best candidate for the renovation because its volunteers "have a heart for what they're doing," and the kitchen doesn't receive a lot of money from the government, like some others.

"We went in and evaluated their needs, system and how they operate, and we made suggestions on how to make the operation more functional," he said. "They're now able to service people with much less confusion and congestion in the kitchen."

Member restaurants like Chipotle and Irvine-based Taco Bell chipped in with volunteer labor, supplies and equipment. In addition to the thorough renovation, the association also donated plates and silverware, slashing the $1,000 Someone Cares spent monthly on paper goods out of its budget.

Someone Cares Executive Director Shannon Santos said she was elated at the renovation.

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