STUART- On the morning of June 30 the House of Hope Stuart Service Center was filled with smiling faces and eager salutations. Long time friends, agency partners and other supporters of House of Hope walked briskly through the Client Choice pantry to behold a set of swinging doors with a brightly colored plaque mounted above, The Elisabeth Lahti Nutrition Center. Dozens of guests filed around the blue floored room saving a space in front of the double doors for the woman of the hour – Elisabeth Lahti.
Camera flashes snapped and the excited chatter hushed as CEO Rob Ranieri, addressed the room. He welcomed everyone and explained the purpose of the newly completed clean room kitchen environment and what it would mean for House of Hope’s thousands of clients. The Nutrition Center space creates a whole new chapter for the agency, allowing more economically priced bulk food items to be repackaged and/or prepared into fresh meals for local households, homebound seniors, and homeless clients. Enhanced nutrition will now be offered year round through the pantries as the kitchen provides a way to blanch and freeze a variety of fresh produce to make it available throughout the year. For those in need of a livable wage, vocational training opportunities have also been created with this kitchen offering food handling certification and other precursors to careers in the bustling food service industry and beyond.
Ranieri explained the fitting nature of naming the Nutrition Center after Elisabeth Lahti as her many years of support has been a driving force in House of Hope’s transformation and the Nutrition Center’s offerings are a bold example of the agency’s evolving empowerment model. Onlookers beamed with admiration for the woman standing before them, once a social worker herself, Lahti has been a passionate supporter of House of Hope and many other local causes she holds dear to her heart.
Elisabeth Lahti’s involvement in the mission has helped House of Hope expand services, infrastructure, and programs to be able to have an important impact on the lives of almost 6,000 Martin County residents each month.