In 1982, George Piers saw a need for a soup kitchen in Fredericton so he stepped up to help create one.

“At that time there was a downturn in the economy, the interest rates had gone wild, people were losing their homes, losing their jobs and so on,” he says. “We really thought…we’d be out of business in no longer than five years.”

However, demand only grew at the Fredericton Community Kitchen – more than 116,000 meals are served there each year – and Piers since has become one of the region’s top advocates in giving a voice to those who are less fortunate.

Piers is stepping away from that role this week as he officially retires from public service.

“It’s a business that we’ve always wanted to be out of and the only way I’ve got out of it is to retire from it,” he says.

The former schoolteacher has become a recognizable face and voice when it comes to ensuring not only nourishment, but also dignity for those who are less fortunate.

He has spoken on a multitude of issues beyond the kitchen, including the cost of living and affordable housing.

Piers is also a recipient of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal, as well as the Order of New Brunswick.

The person stepping into the kitchen’s top role says Piers’ guiding principles are quite simple.

“Very much a believer in everybody getting a chance, a second chance in life, and that’s been evident by a lot, by the relationships he’s had with clients over the years,” says Aimee Foreman, the kitchen’s executive director.

Piers says it’s those relationships he will miss the most.

“There’s not a place in the city where I don’t find somebody that I haven’t worked with that needed some help and they’ve been able to improve their life and go on and get a job,” he says.

However, many people believe this isn’t the last they’ve seen of Piers.

“Ya know, politics is looking appealing, maybe, maybe not,” laughs Piers when pressed about what he will do next. “If I can find a party that might want me!”

With files from CTV Atlantic's Nick Moore