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A World of Good Just Inside Norwalk's Open Door

Today's peek inside Open Door Shelter on Merritt Street in Norwalk: food pantry, kitchen and renovated café.

The food pantry area inside the Open Door Shelter in Norwalk. Credit: Leslie Yager
The food pantry area inside the Open Door Shelter in Norwalk. Credit: Leslie Yager
The Open Door Shelter in Norwalk is a spot most people never step inside.

And that's a pity, really.

Though most who make a temporary home at Open Door are in the unfortunate position of needing a place to stay, the shelter is so much more than a bunk for the night.

Often times, community members may, for instance, drop off a donation of clothes or participate in a service project with their employer and experience the upbeat atmosphere.

Volunteers like Alison Sherman might do a food rescue run with Community Plates and collect surplus food from a bakery, market or restaurant and deliver it to the shelter's kitchen.  

Some one-time do-gooders get hooked and become longterm volunteers.

If you've never stepped inside the shelter, this article, the first in a series, offers a peek. It's not what you think. It is cheerful and full of busy residents, staff and volunteers. 

Recently, the Open Door's Director of Development Chris Hulse offered Patch a tour of the facilities. Today, we introduce the food pantry, kitchen and café. 

The soup kitchen serves three meals a day, every day. At 4:00a.m., the cooking begins. Breakfast starts at 7:00a.m.

"We serve about 500 meals a day," said Victor Squire, one of the chefs at Open Door. 

The dining room is open to the public, which means someone struggling, hungry or on a tight budget, but not a resident of the shelter, is welcome to have meals there.

According to Hulse, the dining room was made more inviting and cheerful recently when volunteers from Grace Community Church of New Canaan and Noroton Presbyterian loaned their skills to the weeklong project.

The church groups are big supporters of Open Door, according to Hulse, who said that the groups also give meals to the residents.

Adjacent to the kitchen is the food pantry, which is a busy spot. "Our policy is two good sized grocery bags per family every 21 days," said Hulse. "We serve 50-100 a month."

The Open Door shelter is located at at 4 Merritt Street in Norwalk. Tel. (203) 866-1057 Email: info@opendoorshelter.org

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