Student choral group partners with local non-profit for fifth consecutive semester
Every semester, the Keene State College Chamber Singers dedicate some of their time to a local, non-profit organization.
This year the group will be working with the Community Kitchen Food Pantry.
The Chamber Singers initially take part in the choral group with an audition and once they are chosen they can enroll in the one-credit class.
Dr. Sandra Howard, their professor, said this is their fifth consecutive semester with a non-profit.
“It’s easy to be so immersed in campus,” she said. “It’s important for students to see beyond that.”
Last Thursday, the group of 16 took a stroll down Main Street and passed Bank of America to the Community Kitchen on Mechanic Street.
Senior Amy St. Louis said this is her seventh semester with the KSC Chamber Singers and is “really excited” for the group’s collaboration with the community.
“We’re the only music group who does this so it’s really nice. There’s so little time to get out in the community so this class gives us the opportunity,” St. Louis said.
Her classmate, sophomore Amanda Williams seemed to agree. “I think giving back to the community is really cool,” she said. “I feel so bad for people who can’t afford food, so it’s good to be able to make their day better.”
While this is Williams’ first year with the KSC Chamber Singers, junior Nick Tocci said he is going on his fifth semester with the group.
Tocci said, being from Keene, “I’m more interested and curious [about the Community Kitchen],” because he had never been there prior to the tour. His classmate, senior Kirk Bobkowski said he, too, is interested in their work.
“It’s really cool to see the community working with the city and that help is around for people who need it,” Bobkowski said.
Executive Director of the Community Kitchen, Phoebe Bray, said this year marked 30 years of service.
Instead of celebrating, Bray said, “Thirty years is worth taking a long, hard look at society and that we still have to exist.”
Bray explained and said that many of their clients include senior citizens, young families, single parent or one-working parent families. For some clients, Bray said, they used the Community Kitchen through a rough patch and moved on. However, the Executive Director also said, “Unfortunately, a lot of our clients do not move on.”
On top of hot meals and pantry service that is setup like a super market, Bray said the non-profit organization is truly working at swaying their clients toward healthier eating habits. Last week, the pantry consisted of onions, carrots, lettuce and cabbage. The Community Kitchen received three tons of farm and garden fresh produce.
One item was kale and there was lots of it. With 17 bushels of kale, Bray said the kitchen had 20 different recipes to utilize.
Bray mentioned the harsh truth that food is expensive and “good food is even more expensive.”
“We could get a van full of Little Debbie snacks every week and I’m happy to say we don’t need it,” Bray added.
The food pantry consisted of the super market type set up, but also included an industrial size and functioning kitchen. It is very large, health inspector approved with health code and serve-safe rules. “It’s run like a restaurant kitchen,” Bray said.
A new partnership with the Salvation Army on Church Street had also just begun, cooking and serving food on Saturdays.
Community Kitchen is also partnered with C&S Wholesale Grocers, United Natural Food Inc. in Chesterfield, and Bray said, “We couldn’t open our doors without Hannaford’s. We pick up from them seven days a week.”
KSC Chamber Singers will be holding two of their concerts throughout the semester at food drives.
Instead of a ticket, non-perishable foods will be accepted. Not only that, but their last concert will donate 20 percent of its proceeds to the Community Kitchen.
Both Bray and Howard encourage students and members of the community to volunteer on their own time as well. The choral group seemed to be looking forward to give a helping hand.
“We get a lot from this community so it’s nice to give something back to them,” St. Louis said.
Rebecca Farr can be contacted at