Borough woman starts soup kitchen

Volunteer Courtney Place, left, and Naugatuck Valley Soup Kitchen founder Carly Holloway package meals to deliver April 27 at 66 Church in Naugatuck. –ANDREAS YILMA

NAUGATUCK — A borough native is using her expertise to run a soup kitchen in the middle of the global COVID-19 outbreak.

Carly Holloway, a pastry chef by trade, started the Naugatuck Valley Soup Kitchen in April to help people in need.

The journey toward starting a soup kitchen began when Holloway donated masks to the homeless, which led her to the soup kitchen run by Greater Waterbury Interfaith Ministries in Waterbury.

A couple days after visiting the soup kitchen, Holloway received her federal stimulus relief check and decided to use the money to start her own soup kitchen.

“I’ve always been volunteering. I’ve always tried to give money to homeless people,” Holloway said. “The only thing that COVID-19 really changed was me making the masks and the masks transforming into the soup kitchen idea.”

“So the stimulus check was just my way of giving back to the community,” Holloway added. “I also want to show my daughter that when you have enough, you should spread what you have around instead of hoarding it.”

Holloway said her husband, Dan, and herself are fortunate enough to both be considered essential workers and haven’t lost their jobs due to the coronavirus. She works in the bakery at the Shoprite in Waterbury and her husband works at an auto dealership in Watertown. The couple has two children, Zoe, 8 and Tristan, 2.

Holloway is operating the soup kitchen out of 66 Church — the tavern’s owners donated their space and access to Restaurant Depot so she can buy supplies in bulk. Maple Street Bakery also donates bread.

Holloway is applying for nonprofit status. The soup kitchen delivered its first meals on April 20, and delivered 635 meals by the end of the month, Holloway said.

The soup kitchen delivers meals on Mondays and Wednesdays to Naugatuck residents with the help of a handful of volunteers. Breakfast and lunch are delivered together between 9 and 10 a.m. and dinners are dropped off at 5 p.m.

Menus are available on the Naugatuck Valley Soup Kitchen’s Facebook page. People looking for meals can call Holloway at 203-528-7494 or can contact her through Facebook.

To start, Holloway is limiting meals to four dozen people every Monday and Wednesday as she seeks donations to grow the soup kitchen.

“I need help long term,” she said. “I had my stimulus check and that got me started, but I need the support of the town long term to continue to feed the residents.”

Holloway said some patrons of the soup kitchen donate what they can, and she has also set up a GoFundMe page, “Naugatuck Valley Soup Kitchen Start Up,” to accept donations.

Holloway added she’ll also accept cash donations for her homemade masks to benefit the soup kitchen.

“Overall I want to give back to the community that’s given me and my family so much, and try to end hunger with a hands-on approach,” Holloway said.

The soup kitchen adds another safety net along with the Naugatuck Ecumenical Food Bank to help fight hunger.

“It certainly does help if someone is hungry,” food bank President Mary Lee Fenton said.

Holloway and her husband started dating during the recession in the late 2000s. They finished their trade schools with student loan debt, Holloway said. Many times they couldn’t afford to eat, she said, so her mom invited them over for dinner twice a week.

Holloway said that’s what she wants to provide for the borough — a home-cooked meal once or twice a week for someone in need.

“Food service is just my passion, so for me this is humbling that it makes such a difference in so many peoples’ lives when it’s something I love to do and I enjoy doing,” Holloway said. “I’m proud that I can do this for the town that I love.”