Meredith restaurant taps kindness of customers

02 03 meredith can donations

Jen Gray, a seven-year employee of Sunshine & Pa's Restaurant in Meredith, said a donation jar with a "pay it forward" twist has been a hit with customers. (David Carkhuff/The Laconia Daily Sun)


MEREDITH — A Facebook post calling for the public to "pay it forward" has taken on a life of its own at Sunshine & Pa's Restaurant at 11 Main St., where customers can donate to a jar as a way of helping someone down on their luck.

The donations allow a recipient to enjoy a hot coffee or a hot meal, courtesy of an anonymous stranger.

Sunshine & Pa's has unveiled the "suspended coffee" program. A note of explanation is attached, which reads: "How do I buy a suspended coffee? It's simple really. Donate to the jar above. If someone is in need of a hot cup of coffee or maybe even something to eat, the money donated will go to pay for it."

The note goes on to explain that the restaurant will always have $50 on hand in the donation jar to help someone who comes through the door. Anything above that amount will be donated to a local food pantry. "You not only support someone in need, you also support your local business as well as helping to restore a little faith in humanity," the note reads.

Eligibility is open ended. "It can be for the homeless man you pass every day on the street, a stressed student in the middle of exams, or a mom who needs a five-minute break. It is not up to us to judge who is in need. If someone asks, then they are in need. It helps remind us that no matter how alone you may feel, there is always someone somewhere who cares. Being alone is the scariest thing in the world, and our desire is to brighten those dark days of loneliness and fear. Yes, it's just a cup of coffee, but it's about more than the coffee!"

The family-owned restaurant, open from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. every day, has been in business since 1999.

The "Suspended Coffee/Meal" program at Sunshine & Pa's was the brainchild of Pat Couturier, a longtime waiter at the restaurant. About a week and a half ago the jar went onto a counter inside the door.

The idea came from a post on Facebook, which indicated that the "tradition" started in Naples, Italy, but spread worldwide.

"I'm really excited about it," Couturier said.

Couturier said he brought the idea to his boss, Shawn England, owner of the restaurant. The response was instant.

"He thought it was a great idea. He's always been about helping out the community in any way he can," Couturier recalled.

The benefit has been deemed a "win-win" because it's an opportunity to help out while also tapping the "generosity of customers."

"I've been there for nine years, and my customers have always taken care of me," Couturier said, so he wasn't surprised when they showed similar kindness toward those in need. He was right. The jar had more than $40 in it by Thursday, Couturier said.

Jen Gray, a seven-year employee of Sunshine & Pa's, said, "I think it's a good effort by the community to try to give back to some people who don't have anything."

Customers have warmed to the idea, she agreed.

"A lot of people have been asking," Gray said. "We have a lot of people coming in this weekend, so I'm sure there will be a lot of money."

Meredith is hosting the eighth annual New England Pond Hockey Classic this weekend.

For more about Sunshine & Pa's, visit the Facebook page at


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The meme posted on Facebook:

This story will warm you better than a coffee on a cold winter day:

"We enter a little coffeehouse with a friend of mine and give our order. While we're approaching our table two people come in and they go to the counter:

'Five coffees, please. Two of them for us and three suspended'

They pay for their order, take the two and leave. I ask my friend:

'What are those 'suspended' coffees?'

'Wait for it and you will see.'

Some more people enter. Two girls ask for one coffee each, pay and go. The next order was for seven coffees and it was made by three lawyers — three for them and four 'suspended'. While I still wonder what's the deal with those 'suspended' coffees I enjoy the sunny weather and the beautiful view towards the square in front of the café. Suddenly a man dressed in shabby clothes who looks like a beggar comes in through the door and kindly asks 'Do you have a suspended coffee?'

It's simple — people pay in advance for a coffee meant for someone who can not afford a warm beverage. The tradition with the suspended coffees started in Naples, but it has spread all over the world and in some places you can order not only a suspended coffee, but also a sandwich or a whole meal.


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St. Joseph Church could be demolished if sale fails

St. Josephs Church and rectory

St. Joseph's Church and rectory at 30 Church St., along with the Holy Trinity School building, are for sale. If they are not sold within six months, the church building will be demolished rather than be used for "sordid" purposes. (File photo)




LACONIA — The St. André Bessette Parish has received permission from the Diocese of Manchester to put St. Joseph Church, rectory and Holy Trinity School building on the real estate market, as part of a plan to consolidate the parish's properties and programs onto the Sacred Heart Campus. The parish has also received permission from the diocese to purchase the building at 277 Union Ave. to be used as the new home of Holy Trinity School.

St. Joseph Church will be marketed with restrictions on its deed which would prohibit the buyer, or any subsequent owner, from using the property for uses that the diocese considers improper for a former church. If no suitable buyer is found within six months, the plan calls for the church to be razed.

Father Marc Drouin informed parishioners of the plan in a letter dated Jan. 31. In the letter, he states that the plan was developed during a parish meeting in December, and that Bishop Anthony Libasci has recently agreed with recommendations provided by the parish. 

Those recommendations include purchasing the property at 277 Union Ave. – the former TD Bank building – consolidating the parish onto the Sacred Heart campus, and listing the St. Joseph Church campus, which includes the church, rectory and school.

Drouin was not immediately available for comment. In an interview for an article published on Nov. 7, 2016, he said the St. Joseph Church and rectory required at least $500,000 in repairs, and that the parish has been experiencing an annual deficit of $50,000 in recent years.

The parish expects to spend $500,000 to purchase the property at 277 Union Ave. The parish has half of that amount already donated by parishioners, the other half will be loaned to the parish by the diocese, to be repaid with proceeds from the sale of the St. Joseph campus.

Prior to listing the Holy Trinity School building, the parish will ensure that the property at 277 Union Ave. will be a suitable location for the school, both in terms of city zoning as well as structural considerations.

Drouin's letter speaks to the possibility of the St. Joseph Church being razed. In the letter, he quotes Libasci as writing, "It saddens me greatly that there are many examples of former Catholic churches converted to profane but not sordid use, and then later used for purposes inconsistent with the inherent dignity of a former church. We have developed stringent deed restrictions to help reduce the risk of this occurring, which I have distributed to all pastors. It is very difficult to find a suitable buyer willing to accept those restrictions and I understand that the sale of the Saint Joseph campus is essential to the transition to the Sacred Heart campus. Based on consultation with my staff, I would like you to list the Saint Joseph Church property for sale, with the attached deed restrictions. However, if no suitable buyer is found willing to accept all of the deed restrictions within six months of the listing date, then the Saint Joseph Church property must be razed so as to prevent a future use of the property inconsistent with the dignity of a Church."

Drouin then added his own words, "Now let me comment, nobody wants to see Saint Joseph's church razed. However, the sad reality is that former churches have been converted into bars and other places of unacceptable use. Another factor is that the money from the properties is desperately needed and the fear is that the properties will not sell with those deed restrictions, placing a financial burden on the Parish as a whole... Again, neither the Bishop nor I wish to see the destruction of the church, but we really have no choice but to follow this path."

Warren D. Huse of the Laconia Historical and Museum Society, while acknowledging the challenge the parish is facing, said it would be a tremendous loss to the city to see St. Joseph Church go.
He quoted David Ruell’s 1995 book, “The Historic Churches of Belknap County, 1791-1940,” which asserted, “The design of St. Joseph’s does have that quality of boldness and forcefulness often associated with (Ralph Adams) Cram’s work. The massing of the building is almost sculptural. The street facade is a fine composition. The well designed ornament is carefully placed. The result is a powerful church, and excellent example of the 20th century Gothic Revival style at its best.”

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Lakefront dream house

02-02 Pond Hockey bob house


Bryce Turmel, 8, center, celebrates with his brother, Ryan Turmel, 11, right, as Ethan Bickford, 12, left, waves the Lakes Region Youth Hockey Association flag marking the delivery and set-up of the group's bob house on the ice of Meredith Bay. LRYHA will raffle use of the house as a mobile locker room during the New England Pond Hockey Classic Feb. 3-5. (Bea Lewis/for The Laconia Daily Sun)


Lakes Region Youth Hockey Association raffles use of bob house as locker room for Pond Hockey Classic team


LACONIA — The Lakes Region Youth Hockey Association is counting on fellow hockey enthusiasts to help them reach their fundraising goals.
One lucky team competing in this weekend's New England Pond Hockey Classic will get to use a warming hut/locker room on the ice. While in years past, the association has raffled off the use of a trailer for a team to use, this year they decided to build a Laker Bob House.
Raffle tickets are $10 each and will be sold on Friday as registration for the three-day tournament begins.
Lynne Turmel, who serves on the LRYHA board and whose two sons play in the league, said the decision to build a bob house was a result of the efforts of a group of committed parents, sponsors and volunteers.
"We're fortunate to have a lot of businesses who have been willing to step up," Turmel said.
Matt Bickford whose son, Ethan, plays on an association team and who owns and operates Bickford Landscape & Design, volunteered to build the eight by eight-foot bob house that features two large viewing windows, hooks and shelves to hang and store equipment, as well as an outside bar.
Rich Ellis of Tradesmen Builder Corporation was able to secure donated building materials from Bouila-Gorrell Lumber Company and from Blaine Drew's Affordable Metal Roofing.
Nancy Bickford, who also serves on the association's board, said LRYHA is committed not only to helping kids learn to play the fun and exciting sport, but also how to interact with a team, commit to a full season of play and to both win and lose.
"It's all about the kids," she said, as she watched her husband slide the newly constructed bob house off a trailer and onto the ice of Meredith Bay.
Lakes Region Youth Hockey Association has 94 skaters on travel teams, from 14 different communities in the Lakes Region. Their program feeds into at least four area high school teams. An additional 48 mini mites and learn to skate kids are also enrolled.
"We're a small organization but have enjoyed some enormous success," said Turmel.
Some two dozen members of the association's coaching staff will hang up their whistles this weekend and pick up their sticks to compete on various teams during the pond hockey action in Meredith.
Turmel directed special thanks to Scott Crowder, commissioner of New England Pond Hockey Classic, for assisting the association with its fundraising.
"His commitment to youth hockey and the love of the game make this all possible for the Lakes Region Youth Hockey Association," she said.
The association offers four programs: full season travel, split season midgets, mini-mites-instructional and a learn to skate for hockey program as well as a variety of skill development camps.
Tryouts for the 2017-2018 season will be March 20-21 at the Merrill Fay Ice Arena. Any business interested in sponsoring a NRYHA team can contact Lynne Turmel at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

02-02 bob house trophy

The team that wins the Pond Hockey tournament gets to immortalize its victory by signing this bench provided by the Lakes Region Youth Hockey League. (Bea Lewis/for The Laconia Daily Sun)