The stainless steel in the new kitchen at Lighthouse Mission shone almost as brightly as the faces of the patrons who stopped by for lunch on Friday afternoon.
The Main Street mainstay has a completely renovated kitchen that has been relocated to the back of the building from its old spot just inside the front door.
Operations manager Joel Cormie said the new space and appliances are already making a difference for the more than 250 patrons served their midday meal.
"People like Project Echo and our other partners, they don't just pity the people here, they take the necessary action to help relieve the distress these people are in. It's a magical thing. It's just wonderful," Cormie said.
"We're just so excited because there's multiple benefits that are going to benefit the community big-time."
The kitchen reno was led by Jeff Fisher and Project Echo, which raised most of the approximately $40,000 needed to build and fill the space and supplied volunteer man hours. Reese Precourt, the 15-year-old Winnipeg girl who baked hundreds of cookies last March, donated the proceeds to buy "Reese's Pieces" for cooking, such as bowls, utensils and spices. Numerous other community partners donated time, supplies and labour.
Friday's lunch was shawarmas supplied by Shawarma Khan, with Booster Juice and cookies baked in the kitchen by Precourt.
"We identified a need and so many people pulled together to solve a problem," said Fisher, whose volunteers include clients from Elite Performance, including many past and present football players from the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the University of Manitoba Bisons. "When we first came in here, all the food for the day was cooked in one pot on a hot plate and all they had to serve it was styrofoam cups."
Cormie said the mission can now provide more varied and nutritious meals.
"We've got this massive brand new soup pot, a brand new convection oven, new countertops, new flooring and cupboards," Cormie said.
"We used to be limited to just soup, but now, because of the new convection oven, people can come here and get shepherd's pie and lasagna and so many different meals."
He said about 10 volunteers run the kitchen.
"Now that the kitchen is at the back, a great thing is people won't have to line up outside anymore. When it's -40 C it's hard to wait outside for your food," Cormie said. "Now they can line up inside the dining hall."
J'Lynn Johnson, Lighthouse Mission's donor relations manager, said Bill Knight Flooring took its role in the kitchen project up a notch. The company installed new vinyl plank flooring throughout the second floor, where a small classroom is located as well as office and storage areas.
"All of these changes, it's giving this place a sense of permanence. People who come in here and see changes like this happening, they think this place is lasting. And not just lasting but growing," Johnson said.
The classroom received a large conference table, chairs and a flat-screen television for learning programs, which assist patrons in upgrading their English and math skills.