BANGOR — Bill Rae moved his office Monday, not out of choice but out of necessity. The Manna Ministries leader presided from a red van parked in front of his soup kitchen on Center Street, a facility devastated Saturday when the back portion of the roof caved in.
Heavy snow and ice had accumulated on the flat roof of the building at 180 Center St. Unable to support the weight any longer, a key beam that runs through the middle of the building weakened and twisted, causing the roof to collapse.
More than 3,000 pounds of food was lost in the cave-in as well as most of the building’s interior, according to Rae. The only portion free from wreckage was an ell where Rae’s desk was located; however city code enforcement officials ruled the building uninhabitable over the weekend, forcing Rae to move his headquarters to the makeshift van-office in the parking lot.
Damage to the building could mount to $60,000 according to Rae, who on Monday alternately spoke with worried clients wanting their next meal and insurance adjusters wanting the bottom line.
The soup kitchen will be rebuilt, according to Rae. In the meantime, Manna has tentative plans to move its nightly feedings to the Columbia Street Baptist Church starting tonight. There Rae and volunteers will continue serving free meals from 5 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Rae estimated the soup kitchen would be located on Columbia Street for the next one to 1 1/2 months. The church’s board of directors was expected to approve the move when it met Monday night, according to a spokesman who picked up the telephone Monday afternoon.
Rae added that had the roof collapsed a day earlier it would have meant a human tragedy. Normally open only in the evening, the soup kitchen building has been open during daylight hours for the past two weeks to help out victims of the ice storm.
Undaunted by the destruction of a building he and his followers had remodeled extensively after buying it in 1994, Rae and other volunteers served a take-home meal from the facility’s parking lot Monday night.
Rick Dumond, the only person in the building when the ceiling caved in at about 11:30 a.m. Saturday, put together a large vat of vegetable soup in the kitchen of the Elks Club in Brewer and packed sandwiches on Monday.
Dumond recalled it took only seconds for the roof to collapse to the floor Saturday. He was in the middle of the dining area when he heard a snap, said Dumond, who cooks nightly for the soup kitchen.
“I literally ran for the door and worried when I had to stop to unlock the latch. After I got out I turned around to find the roof where I was a second ago,” said Dumond, who is 49.
Rae said people have been donating food to replace the large packages of canned goods and meats that had been collected to help people weather Ice Storm ’98. Still, the facility will need large food donations to keep its schedule of feeding the poor and needy and supplying area food banks.
Rae said most of the damage will be covered by insurance, although some local fund-raising may have to be done to make up the difference.
“We have been here for eight years and will continue to stay here. I believe God wants us here,” said Rae.