Community members will gather for a soup lunch next week, knowing that their meals and donations will have a deeper impact in the Tri-Cities.
This year’s Soup for All takes place Thursday, Nov. 21, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., at St. Patrick-St. Anthony Catholic Church, 920 Fulton Ave., Grand Haven. Tickets can be purchased at the door for $10 or online at bit.ly/soupforall.
Funding from the annual event is dispersed among agencies that provide housing assistance and food pantries. Soup for All chairperson Stacey Ruwe said that although the area is thought of as wealthy, it’s not well-known that there is a number of hard-working residents who struggle to make ends meet.
The Soup for All committee works to disperse funds to northern Ottawa County organizations that help with shelter, food, rent assistance, utility assistance and basic needs such as toothpaste, shampoo, toothpaste, deodorant and more. Ruwe noted that the organizations that receive funds also work to help people become self-sufficient.
“Sometimes just by helping with the grocery bills, we can make it so someone can get through a rough patch and stay in their home,” Ruwe said.
Since its inception 16 years ago, the event has raised more than $175,000 for the community. Since 2015, Soup for All has almost tripled the impact in the community through the amounts raised, Ruwe said. Last year’s event brought in more than $25,000. Organizers hope to raise closer to $30,000 this year – and with sponsorships, they’ve already raised $18,000.
Ruwe said it’s heartwarming to live in a community where people reach out and show their support.
“Our community pays attention to the issues and steps up year after year,” she said. “It is very rewarding to be able to help with an event such as this, and to see the community support come out in mass to sponsor and attend.”
Between to-go orders and in-person participants, about 700 people were served last year. Organizers hope to serve 1,000 this year, and have collected additional bowls to help with the flow of diners.
Nine organizations have applied to receive funds this year. Organizers will look through applications, listen to presentations and distribute the funds next month.
Families within the Grand Haven school district receive assistance from money raised through previous Soup for All events. The district receives funding from the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grant, which can be used for supplies and transportation costs of getting students to and from school. The district has received about $4,000 through that grant, said Sarah Elliott, the homeless liaison for Grand Haven Area Public Schools.
Elliott said the Soup for All funding provides the school district with funds to support families beyond what federal funding allows based on regulations. With funding from the event, she has provided gas gift cards for families to get to and from work, help with emergency rent assistance to prevent homelessness, and help with hotel costs for families who are unable to find shelter. The Soup for All funding last year was also used to help the pantries at Grand Haven and Central high schools.
Each year, GHAPS is required to determine what families qualify for their services. More than 200 families were qualified at the end of the 2018-19 school year.
“This is not a problem that’s going away,” Elliott said.
The People Center in Spring Lake is another agency that has received funds from Soup for All. So far this year, the center has provided housing for 26 individuals, 14 of whom are children.
As they save money and work on improving their credit, clients also participate in the Grand Haven Neighborhood Housing Services’ financial empowerment center.
The goal is to get them rent- or mortgage-ready, said People Center Director Karen Reenders. Soup for All funding typically goes toward utilities costs, she said.
When the community gathers for the annual soup lunch, Elliott said it shows families that there are people in the area who care about others.
“It’s creating hope,” she said.
Participating restaurants for this year’s event include Morning Star, JW’s, Arboreal Inn, Did’s Deli, The Paisley Pig, Notos, Portobello, Old Boys, The Fortune Cookie, Lucy’s Deli, Spring Lake Country Club and Small Town Sandwich Shop.
Restaurants providing “to go” orders include The Toasted Pickle, TED’s, Burger Theory and Snug Harbor.
The deadline to place a “to go” order is 5 p.m. Monday, Nov. 18.
Cookie donors include: Ryke’s Bakery, Edible Arts, Walmart, Meijer, Leppinks, Orchard Market, D&W Fresh Market and Great Harvest Bread Co. Bread donors include Grande Finale, GFS, Village Baker and Lucy’s Deli.