April 23, 2008
By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff Writer
“Soup’s on” is a phrase that will ring out in the Spencer-Penn Centre soon, after 9th District U.S. Rep. Rick Boucher, D-Abingdon, secured federal funds to buy kitchen equipment.
Boucher visited the facility Tuesday to announce that the center has received a $50,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Agency for new, commercial-quality kitchen equipment.
“The kitchen is going to provide tremendous services” and use its new, “state-of-the-art equipment” to provide daily meals to children enrolled in a day care in the former school, banquets “and other events,” said Boucher, D-Abingdon.
The total cost of the project is $202,150, he said.
The Harvest Foundation gave the center a “very substantial contribution” of $138,000 toward the project, and the Spencer-Penn Preservation Organization is providing $14,150, Boucher said.
The Spencer-Penn Elementary School closed in 2004, following a series of county school consolidations. Built in 1927, with additions in 1948 and 1962, the building was worn with age and use.
The Spencer-Penn Preservation Organization paid $15,000 to buy the school from the county in November 2004 and has since worked to renovate it.
“I’m just so amazed at the quality” of the renovations so far, “and all with private contributions. So many people have volunteered with time and materials and their own labor,” Boucher said.
When the school closed, much of the existing kitchen equipment was removed by the school system, he said.
“The organization has already completed several of the needed renovations to the kitchen and adjacent hall, including installing new plumbing, a new heating and air-conditioning unit and the purchase of new tables, chairs and a sound system,” he said.
The funding announced Tuesday will allow the preservation organization to buy several items to make the kitchen workable again, including a commercial range, oven, refrigerator, freezer, ice maker, dishwasher, food warmers, work tables, microwaves, a coffee maker, pots and pans and other supplies, Boucher said.
Professional caterers also will be able to lease the kitchen on occasion “to prepare meals more efficiently for clients, thereby allowing these small businesses the opportunity to grow and add jobs to the local economy,” he added.
Last year, Boucher announced a $13,750 grant from Rural Development for new playground equipment at the center, and “I understand that construction on this new playground will begin in the coming weeks,” he said Tuesday.
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