First Youngstown SOUP raises $700 for Circle of Friends


By Jessica Mowchan

Soup and salad can add up to a lot of green for one lucky community project.

The Youngstown SOUP event is patterned after similar ones in Detroit and Chicago. The idea is simple. The community gets together for a dinner featuring homemade soups, bread and salad. The admission fee of $5 funds a micro-grant to be awarded at the dinner. Attendees get to vote for which group they’d like to see get the cash.

“There are lots of great things happening, but no one’s highlighting them,” said Sophia Buggs, one of the event’s organizers. “So, a SOUP is a really good way to highlight organizations that just need that little bit of extra push to get them to the next level of doing what they’re doing in the city.”

The local group’s first event, April 27 at the Calvin Center, attracted 200 people, raising $705. Five people presented their projects to the crowd, hoping to win the cash. Jenn Gonda won the money for her group, the Mahoning Valley Circle of Friends, which helps children with autism develop social skills. The money will be used for financial aid and scholarships.

“We never thought that we would have this forum. We feel super privileged and we’re just very excited,” said Gonda.

Other charities that vied for the micro-grant were the MORE project, Friends of the Mahoning River Riverfest and the Operation Learning Community Program.

Denise Bayer won the best soup award for her Cream of Tomato Basil creation.

SOUP organizers hope to have other projects – urban agriculture, education, technology, art and social justice – make presentations at future events.

The next SOUP event will be July 27 at the Calvin Center, 755 Mahoning Ave. is a collaborative effort among the Youngstown State University journalism program, The University of Akron, Cuyahoga Community College and professional media outlets including, WYSU-FM Radio and The Vindicator (Youngstown), The Beacon Journal and Rubber City Radio (Akron).