By Margery Groten
Fall leaves rustling in the breeze outside, folks gazing at the large table of handmade bowls trying to select one, live music, delicious soups donated by local restaurants, friends talking and laughing, shoppers reviewing exciting silent auction items, a community coming together for a cause—these are the images that come to mind when I think of Poughkeepsie Farm Project’s (PFP) annual Soup-A-Bowl event. This is the third year I have chaired the committee for Soup-A-Bowl and I continue to be amazed by the dozens of people who pitch in their time, talents, and resources to make Soup-A-Bowl such a success.
I work with a committee of dedicated volunteers who make miracles, including my “souper” co-chair Tina Vaitkus. 100% of the proceeds support the charitable and education programs of Poughkeepsie Farm Project. These programs include donations and subsidies that provide fresh, healthy food for low-income neighbors and positive fresh food learning experiences for urban youth.
Dan Pressler has organized the pottery sessions at Art Centro, a community arts space located in the Middle Main neighborhood of downtown Poughkeepsie, operated by The Mid-Hudson Heritage Center. Art Centro provides PFP with discounted classes for people who wish to learn how to throw bowls. Some bowls are made by experienced potters, some by new students. All 200+ bowls are a community effort, thrown by one person, trimmed by another and glazed by a third. A shared effort that yields beautiful results! I have thrown, trimmed and glazed various pots for this event, coming home covered in clay and satisfaction.
Committee members reach out to community businesses to secure sponsorships and items for our silent auction and raffle. Others reach out to local restaurants for donations of soup, bread, beverages and desserts. Generous local businesses helped to raise over $20,000 last year.
Zinnia Gutowski and Penny Dell organize a rich array of silent auction items that include gift certificates to restaurants, baskets of wine and beer, gift certificates to local shops and personal services and beautiful handmade pottery, glass and art.
We start in early spring and hundreds of volunteer hours build up to a crescendo on the day of the event. Cathy Coughlin and her enthusiastic family are at the center of food operations leading up to and on the day of the event. They arrange the food donations, collect the hot soups from the restaurants, arrange for the delivery of other food items, ensure the food is at proper temperature, coordinate the servers and oversee the cleanup. The kitchen is run as a professional commercial kitchen and if you can’t take the heat stay out of the kitchen! Soups range from minestrone, to vegan roasted beet & kale, from lobster bisque to lentil, from eggplant to butternut squash. The varieties boggle the mind and tickle the palate.
This year we are proud to make the event a zero-waste event by using the services of Zero to Go, a zero waste carting company focused on composting, recycling, and waste-reduction education. We will be composting all of our non-ceramic bowls, cups, flatware, napkins and food waste!
All of the hard work seems so worth it when I know that in 2015 our community donated over 34,000 pounds to our sponsored share families and to emergency food providers.
Our lead sponsor again this year is Consigli, Inc. Additional sponsors include: D’Arcangelo & Co, LLP, Stop and Shop, and Hannaford. We truly appreciate the support of each Soup-A-Bowl sponsor.
This year the event will be held on October 16th at Vassar Alumnae House. There are two seatings: 12:00 to 1:30 PM and 2:00 to 3:30 PM, but the first seating has sold out! Tickets are $35 if purchased before September 30th ($40 after) and $10 for children. An adult ticket buys you a handmade pottery bowl, three servings of soup and accompaniments (gluten and gluten-free), the chance to participate in a raffle and silent auction, live music and lots of fun! Last year over 200 people attended—not including the scores of event-day volunteers who make the event run smoothly.
The day of the event is a long day, starting with early set-up by the staff of the Vassar Alumnae House, PFP staff, and volunteers, and ending in the evening after distribution of auction items, tallying of cash, cleanup of the kitchen and dining room, and cheers of delight.
We thank you and this year's Soup-a-Bowl sponsors: