The Lismore Soup Kitchen Inc. has been in operation since 1990 to provide meals, accommodation and social support to various groups of marginalised people including people with mental health problems, indigenous people, people suffering drug and alcohol dependency, people with gambling addictions who are left homeless and people living in rough isolated situations that are looking for social contact as well as the basic essentials of life. Lismore is an area with a high number of people that are, for varying reasons, homeless.
It was first established in February 1990 in the basement of the Church of Christ building on the corner of Magellan and Keen Streets in Lismore. It was the vision of Don Ferguson, the founder, who now resides at Dorrigo, to provide breakfast and the evening meal each day to people that he was meeting in the parks and on the street. When Don had to move on for employment reasons, he left a band of enthusiastic volunteers to carry on the work.
Under the leadership of Pat Rossitor, the Soup Kitchen moved from the Church of Christ basement into the parks along Wilson's river, where there was a sense of community and friendship, but where the weather would often make it uncomfortable for both the volunteers and those seeking meals.
In February 1991 the local Police Chief, Charlie Jurd, saw the need for the Soup Kitchen to have a home out of the wet, and offered the facilities of the Police and Youth Community Services Club. This provided a much needed venue for the preparation and serving of the meals, however, when there were large numbers of folk looking for meals, or when the club needed the facilities for other purposes the Soup Kitchen found itself out in the park again.
During these times the number of meals that were provided each night ranged from a quiet 10 to a busy 35 meals. In early 1992 it became more and more apparent that there was a need for the Soup Kitchen to have its own home where meals could be prepared and where people could come throughout the day for a cup of coffee and some friendship.
An old warehouse in Union Street South Lismore was purchased for the use of the Soup Kitchen. Volunteers came in and painted and scrubbed the warehouse into a food hall and a day centre. On the 24th of August 1992, the Lismore Soup Kitchen served its first meal from the new premises.
The warehouse became known as Merriwa, an aboriginal name meaning "a good place", and from August 24th 1992 until 2001, was open every day of the year serving both lunch, and an evening meal. Merriwa was open 12 hours per day and as well as serving meals offered a visiting doctor facility, counselling services, bible study groups and general interest meetings. With the exception of providing meals these services were dis
When a fire destroyed the warehouse in 2001, meals were provided at the home of a volenteer, Colin Ellis, for around a week then the Soup Kitchen opened in a tin shed formerly used by the railways in Norco Lane to continue providing lunchtime cooked meals..
In 2009 the Lismore Soup Kitchen purchased the Winsome Hotel and has been providing accomodation and daily meals at its new home since then.
The Soup Kitchen over the years has been the "Port of First call" for many marginalised people in the local community, as well as for itinerant people that stop off in Lismore on their perpetual journeys. As such, volunteers at the Soup Kitchen meet many people and learn first hand of their needs, and where possible, they point them in the right direction for help, whether it is for housing, or for medical help, or to find establishments where they can detox or go into some form of rehabilitation.