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Detroit Soup Kitchen Feeds the Body and Soul

May 25, 2008
Like every other community in the United States, Detroit experienced devastating poverty during the Great Depression of 1929. It was during this time that the city's poor came knocking at the St. Bonaventure Monastery on Mt. Elliot Street, home of the Capuchin Order. Friar Solanus Casey urged the order to feed the hungry with soup and sandwiches. Eventually, the lines grew to more than 2,000 people waiting for their single meal of the day. The friars knew they had to do more.

The friars turned to the men and women of the Secular Franciscans and joined together with them to collect food from farms, make soup, bake bread, and serve meals in the hall next to the monastery. From these beginnings grew the Capuchin Soup Kitchen.

Today, the Capuchin Soup Kitchen serves the poor who suffer from the lack of basic human needs: material needs, such as food, clothing, and household necessities; psychological needs, such as motivation, self-esteem, and rehabilitation; and social needs, such as support systems and meaningful relationships.

The outreach provides a variety of services including 2,000 hot meals served at two locations, distribution of approximately 30,000 articles of clothing to clients, showers and a change of clothing for up to 30 homeless and poorly housed persons on a daily basis, a children's library and art therapy studio, and a 25,000-square-foot urban farm project, to name a few. In order to serve as a positive healing force in the spirits and lives of needy individuals, the Capuchin Soup Kitchen strives to promote encouragement, direction, and material assistance to foster growth and wholesome independence.

Due to the friars unwavering commitment to their mission, and the dedicated efforts of volunteers and donors, the Capuchin Soup Kitchen spends an unprecedented 87 percent of each dollar on direct client services.

One of the most successful fundraising events for the soup kitchen, the annual SOCK Dinner (Support Our Capuchin Kitchen), has grown to become one of the most successful fundraising events in Michigan. It has been listed in Crain's Detroit Business as one of Detroit's top grossing fundraisers.

SOCK first originated in 1942. Billed as the "Men's Only" Baseball dinner, more than 100 men showed up for the event which was held at the old Soup Kitchen building on Mt. Elliot Street. Each attendee paid five dollars and listened to Connie Mack talk baseball. Over the years such notables as Ted Williams, Casey Stengel, Mickey Mantle, and Joe Garagiola came to the event to talk baseball.

The evening now includes a cocktail reception, silent auction, dinner and entertainment. Mr. Jim Harper, long-time supporter and morning radio show host, has served as the Master of Ceremony for numerous years. Past entertainers include Johnny Trudell and his Orchestra, MOSAIC Youth Choir, and Karen Newman of Red Wing fame.

Even though the format has changed, one thing has remained the same: to assist those less fortunate in the community, Metro Detroiters are still dedicated to attending and supporting this annual Soup Kitchen event. The outpouring of devotion has seen a number of distinguished chairpersons in recent years, including the 2004 Chairs, Anthony and Darlene Soave of Soave Enterprises; Richard and Cathy Wagoner of General Motors Corporation; Bill and Lisa Ford of the Ford Motor Corporation; Bill and Ann McCormick of CMS Energy Corporation; The Hon. Mayor Dennis W. Archer and Hon. Trudy DunCombe Archer , Mayor of the City of Detroit; Art and Mary Van Elslander of Art Van Furniture; and Dr and Mrs. Dieter Zetsche of the Daimler-Chrysler Corporation.
About the Author
Soave Enterprises is a privately held, Detroit-based company with holdings in dozens of companies. Its substantial financial and managerial resources bring strength to these entities.
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