Open Door, Full Heart: Granite Stater Serves Meals to Penacook Community

When Mike Manning saw a “Free Meals” sign outside the United Church of Penacook in 2015 and decided to venture in, he had no idea how much that decision would impact his life.

Mike connected with the chair of Open Door Community Kitchen, and learned about their mission of serving meals to communities in and around Penacook. Later that year, Mike became the kitchen’s co-chair, organizing volunteer shifts, food orders, and donations.

In his first years as co-chair, Mike made sure that Open Door Community Kitchen provided three free sit-down meals a week, with extra food for people to bring home and last them the following days. Mealtimes provided a sense of camaraderie and togetherness among volunteers and attendees alike.

Yet when the COVID-19 pandemic began, Open Door Community Kitchen was hard hit. Many of the volunteers were older and started to stay home at the onset of the pandemic because of the risk to their health. With limited capacity, the kitchen had to reduce its three free meals per week to two. In addition, the dining hall space had to close, and Open Door transitioned to making to-go meals.

Nevertheless, Mike put every effort into making sure that Open Door Community Kitchen was able to keep running during the entire pandemic, never missing a week. Even with a skeleton staff and rising food prices, Mike has worked around the clock to continue serving meals. And now, he’s working to re-start Open Door’s in-person meals, which provide an important sense of community.

Mike’s efforts to serve his neighbors during a time of need, and under unprecedented challenges, are commendable.

As Mike himself says, if everyone could just help each other, the world would be a much better place. His actions exemplify the best of the Granite State spirit of working together to support each other, no matter the obstacles, and we are lucky to have him in our midst.

Do you know a Granite Stater who should be next month’s Granite Stater of the Month? Nominate them here.

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