Every Friday at 48 Alma Rd, caring people produce and serve a hearty, nutritious variety of soups, including one called "mmm soup".
As is apt, it's a Stone Soup initiative.
"The house belongs to the Orphanage Trust and it has had many many lives, this building," says Kath Parnell of Stone Soup. The house is next door to the IHC Centre (Idea Services), which was the original orphanage. Its purpose has changed and the Orphanage Trust's funds have been redirected.
"People stopped putting children into orphanages. In the meantime, the good citizens of Whanganui set up a trust to continue to support the babies. They had some buildings, including this one which was a child care centre," says IHC Association chairwoman and soup kitchen volunteer, Kate Jaunay. "They transferred the Orphanage Trust buildings and money to the IHC by Act of Parliament."
When Midweek dropped by, the kitchen was busy and the nearby table was occupied by people enjoying lunch. For a long time 48 Alma Rd was the home of Club 26.
"There were 26 members, some were from Kimberley [Psychopaedic Hospital, near Levin] and they did all kinds of work — mowing lawns, collecting cans, recycling — they had many years meeting here," says Kate. The club was driven by social worker Alison Campbell, now patron of IHC. It was Alison who pushed Kate to become IHC Association chair.
Kate has a son in Idea Services.
After Club 26 folded, the house became a storeroom for IHC.
"The acting area manager has a good heart and has really taken on the idea of getting people out into the community, letting people do what they want to do, rather than being in institutions. So when we said we'd like to use this building for things that Idea Services may not be able to provide, like art and various things, she got right behind it."
The house was cleaned out and fixed up, with a lot of things sold off in a garage sale. The rest was divided among op shops.
Shane Doull is one of the workers who helps clean and maintain the property. He has two sons with disabilities. When a possible use was being discussed for the building, he suggested Stone Soup, a local community group under the umbrella of Te Ora Hou. He said they were looking at making soup but had nowhere to do it.
"This place was basically a not-very-clean ex-storehouse, with no stove, no fridge, no hot water ... I spoke to Sue Kumeroa and said we have no facilities but we have this building. They said, 'Can we come on Friday and make soup?'"
They brought all their own gear and got to work making soup. Using the small Stone Soup budget, volunteer donations and vegetables supplied by Laugesens, Kath and the volunteers turned the house into a kitchen.
"It was like the best aspects of a church, if you like, where you have all the fellowship, all the aroha, people just wanting to do a good thing," says Kate. "People went away with soup in jars and ice cream containers."
Kate's husband Rob is an architect, and with money from the Orphanage Trust he was able to project manage some upgrades to the building, including improving the plumbing.
"We've now set up an Connect and Create art group on a Tuesday morning, which attracts people from the community, similar to Creative Space in the Frontiersmen's Hall, and we've poached a tutor from them.
"It feels good to be doing a good thing." The next project will be a social group for youth with disabilities.
Kate sees possible uses for the building — lectures and talks from experts in medical fields, perhaps.
"[The Orphanage Trust money] is getting out further than just maintaining buildings. It's actually affecting people's lives."
The Koha Shed helped set up the soup kitchen with slow cookers and kitchen utensils, as well as sewing machines.
"So we can mend curtains and things," says Kath Parnell. Volunteers from Ka Pai Kai pick up and deliver the vegetables from Laugesen's.
"If people want to help, we need things like stock, tins of coconut cream, things like that. We're here on a Friday from 9.30 to start prep, so people can drop things off to us."