Heaven’s Helpers Soup Cafe reopened in Bismarck on Monday, more than 2.5 years after losing the lease on its former location.
The new, expanded cafe at 220 N. 23rd St. offers hot soup and sandwiches six days a week, as well as a place for fellowship.
Heaven’s Helpers first opened in 2009 but lost its lease at its Memorial Highway location in June 2015.
Executive Director Mark Meier said some of the challenges to reopening included raising $250,000 and relying on thousands of volunteer hours to help with renovations.
“It was a community effort, people chipping in and helping,” Meier said. “It’s exciting to see it all come together.”
The volunteer-run cafe offers free meals to anyone who’s hungry, with freewill donations accepted.
“We serve not only the homeless, but we’ve got a big segment of elderly that come here, working poor, single moms and dads with kids,” Meier said. “It’s really for anybody. We just want to treat people with love and respect.”
The lunch rush on Monday had more than 70 people. The cafe served 100 to 200 a day before it closed.
Connie Herrmann had been a regular at the former location and was eager to check it out on Monday.
“We do miss it,” Herrmann said after enjoying a bowl of chicken noodle soup.
Herrmann said she likes the social atmosphere and will probably be there every day.
“The food is great, the atmosphere is great and you’re welcomed all the time,” she said.
The cafe is near the former Ruth Meiers Hospitality House men’s emergency shelter, which closed in October.
Meier said the cafe is even more important now that the shelter is closed because it can provide people a place to get out of the cold during the day. The United Way has provided emergency housing since the shelter closed, but that is primarily for overnight.
“Once they wake up, even if they're able to get shelter, what do you do all day long? There’s only so many places you’re allowed to go, and they have limits,” Meier said.
Heaven’s Helpers plans to do a second phase of renovations to the building to add private showers, laundry facilities and a computer area. While the food is free, patrons will be asked to volunteer at the cafe to use the other services. Donations are being accepted for the next phase of the project.
The cafe is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday. The cafe is closed on Sundays and holiday hours will vary.
The cafe needs additional volunteers, with registration available online at www.soupcafe.org or by contacting 701-751-7687. Heaven’s Helpers also relies on food donations from the community.
Meier encourages people who would normally go to a restaurant for lunch to stop at the soup cafe and give a donation.
“Instead of going to their local restaurant and spending $10 on a meal, put $10 in the box and you’re paying it forward to a person who can’t afford it,” he said.