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Room service–styled eating

When a local homeless shelter in Portsmouth, N.H., lost its volunteers because of COVID–19, the city’s AC Hotel stepped into the gap to provide daily meals.

The hotel also decided to help out The Salvation Army with 100 meals a day, seven days a week, for the six critical weeks after the COVID–19 outbreak and shutdown.

Ken Lingle, AC Hotel’s corporate chef, said the new hotel was just completed last September. It has 10,000 square feet of banquet space and a few restaurants.

“We had this brand–new kitchen and thought it would be a great opportunity for our food and beverage team to break it in, to keep busy during this slow time, to be a part of the community, and be good neighbors,” Lingle said.

The meals included such fine foods as ham, turkey, and spaghetti & meatballs. Lingle said that one day, The Salvation Army requested a picnic–styled menu of hamburgers, hot dogs, baked beans, and coleslaw.

“You name it, and we probably did it,” Lingle said.

Major Donna Marie Reed, who leads the corps along with Lieutenant Kimberly Clark, said the meals were served each night out of the soup kitchen at the corps and were timely.

“Having those 100 hot meals was amazing, especially at the beginning, when everything was closing down and there weren’t many places for people to go,” Reed said. “They went to seniors and the homeless population and low–income people who are struggling.”

Portsmouth, a touristy waterfront town on the border of Maine, has a wide choice of restaurants. Reed said the employees of those businesses lost their jobs when the eateries closed.

“The unemployment is affecting our community greatly,” she said. “We’re feeling that strongly. We’re just trying to make sure we’re accessible to people and still able to provide the necessary help.”

The city is so dependent on tourism, Reed worries about the future. She also is concerned about seniors, who are isolated and lonely.

The officers have taken advantage of Zoom, social media, and phone calls to stay connected.

“We’re trying to make sure people are still seeing us—not up close or hugging or anything—but that they see our faces, especially during this time,” Reed said. “I feel like it gives people stability in a time of uncertainty to see the pastors of The Salvation Army and for them to know that we’re praying for them.

“We’ve let them know they’re cared for and loved and prayed for. We know most of the people who come to us by name. It’s important for people to see us out there.”

Knowing the dangers of serving during COVID–19, Reed said, “I’m trusting God for safety for myself and Lieutenant Clark as we’re really out on the frontlines.”

The corps also went through a move during COVID–19 and the entire ordeal has been a time of spiritual growth, Reed said.

“For me spiritually, it’s brought me to an even deeper understanding of how God is in control of all things,” she said. “You know, we say that a lot, but just knowing that He sees all of this that’s happening and He’s caring for us in ways beyond anything we can imagine is comforting. God just comes through time and again and provides for us.”

For example, when the corps needed protective masks, someone called and provided them.

“We’ve really felt God’s hand and God’s leading throughout this whole situation,” Reed said.

by Robert Mitchell

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