PEABODY — The newly renovated Citizens Inn Haven from Hunger pantry and kitchen in Peabody is a far cry from the dim and outdated space it once was — and is twice as large.

A brand-new kitchen and dining room have been added to the second floor of the nonprofit’s location on Wallis Street. The once-dingy room below, which volunteers would have to transform from a pantry to a dining area multiple times a day, is now a brightly lit pantry permanently stocked with food, clothes, feminine hygiene products and other essential items.

Local officials and community members gathered inside the new space for a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday morning. The event signaled a new era for the pantry and the people it helps, said Kate Benashski, program director and leader of client services at Citizens Inn.

“I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard from clients, ‘I can’t believe you guys did this for us — It’s beautiful,’” Benashski said. “We’re all in this team together to try to alleviate poverty, better folks’ situations and help them become self-sufficient, and this is a nice space for fostering a sense of community and fellowship.”

She added, “It’s elevating, it’s respect, and it’s courtesy.”

The renovated space opened to the public this spring, with the first community meal served there on Easter Sunday.

The building now includes a kitchen that local entrepreneurs can rent to help get new businesses off the ground, and new offices for the nonprofit’s resource center, said Gianna Langis, senior development officer at Citizens Inn.

“We’ve known historically that people who come to the pantry are coming for more than just food insecurity, so we are hoping to be a resource for them in other ways, whether that be SNAP benefits, help in a housing crisis, financial literacy training, health care — anything that is hindering them from financial stability,” Langis said.

The work cost $1.2 million and is part of a $7.4 million comprehensive campaign to enhance the nonprofit’s spaces and services.

This includes renovating four units inside the Inn-Between shelter on Holten Street and adding a playground there.

“If there’s a dark and depressing room that someone is staying in while they’re in shelter with us, that doesn’t really help them. It kind of hinders their experience,” Langis said. “We really want to focus on making sure that they have a really dignified experience while with us.”

The nonprofit is also working to raise $5.4 million for its resource center and food pantry, and $240,000 for special programs that help children and families who are experiencing homelessness.

Citizens Inn went from serving about 450 households around the North Shore each month prior to the pandemic to about 1,100 households a month this year, Langis said.

“It’s not just the pandemic. The cost-of-living inflation has really impacted a lot more people,” she said.

Renovating the Inn-Between shelter is the next phase of the campaign, which has been funded through donations and a $475,000 grant from the state. Langis said construction is planned to start this fall.

Executive Director Carolina Trujillo said Citizens Inn will use these improvements and its current programs to help those in need in any way the organization can.

“There is no judgment here,” Trujillo said. “We meet people where they’re at and we accept people as they are.”

Contact Caroline Enos a t CEnos@northofboston.com and follow her on Twitter @CarolineEnos .

Trending Video

Recommended for you