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Qiling Wang, Deseret News
Mary Montano, left, Ray Fresquez, Sara Day, Andi Catmull and Kyrene Clarke help serve free lunches at St. Vincent de Paul Dining Hall in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018.

SALT LAKE CITY — Thanks to about $1.5 million in donations, Catholic Community Services of Utah is planning to renovate its soup kitchen across the street from the downtown shelter — and also launch a new training program to help the homeless find jobs in food service.

When the St. Vincent de Paul Dining Hall was originally built, it was meant to feed about 200 meals. But today, Catholic Community Services feeds close to 1,000 meals a day, said Matthew Melville, director of the nonprofit's homeless services.

"We've been able to squeeze a lot of love out of this place," Melville said Thursday. "Now we're ready to do a remodel that's focused on delivering the meals and also focus on (more)."

The remodel, thanks to about $1.5 million in anonymous donations, Melville said, is being designed with a new program in mind to help people experiencing homelessness gain restaurant experience and hopefully graduate into jobs after an eight- to 10-week program.

"Our No. 1 goal is making sure everybody is fed every day," Melville said. "And then this is something that's very complimentary to that. … The clients are already down here, they want job training, they want to get out of here as quick as possible. And anything they can have that will give them a leg up, we're ready to do that."

Catholic Community Services is partnering with Catalyst Kitchens, an initiative of the Seattle-based organization FareStart, which is devoted to ending joblessness, poverty and hunger.

"We've got restaurants that just can't hire enough people," Melville said. "So we're really excited to help that industry out and get our clients jobs."

The dining hall remodel is expected to break ground in the coming weeks, with a goal to be finished by next summer, Melville said.

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The new kitchen training program aims to give homeless individuals not only food service skills and experience, but also life skills to help them "get back on their feet," Melville said.

The program is expected to require shifts of seven to eight hours a day, for at least four days a week, to "simulate" working in a restaurant, Melville said. The goal is graduate close to 100 people from the program within the first year.

"We've always been focused on getting our clients toward self-sufficiency," he said. "That's our No. 1 goal is to help them get back on their feet, providing them with those tools. This is a great example."