Youngstown SOUP Bonds Students with Youngstown Community

Volunteers from Youngstown SOUP's second event serve soup for audience members to sample and vote on, at the Calvin Center on April 27. Photo courtesy of Phil Kidd.
Volunteers from Youngstown SOUP's second event serve soup for audience members to sample and vote on, at the Calvin Center on April 27. Photo courtesy of Phil Kidd.
Volunteers from Youngstown SOUP’s second event serve soup for audience members to sample and vote on, at the Calvin Center on April 27. Photo courtesy of Phil Kidd.

On Sunday, everyone in the community of Youngstown is invited to attend the final Youngstown SOUP event of this year from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Calvin Center for the Arts on Mahoning Avenue.

Seven members of the Youngstown community — Phil Kidd, Victoria Allen, Mason Carratt, Lisha Mills, Alex Lipinsky, Julius Oliver and Sophia Buggs — founded Youngstown SOUP. It was based on Detroit SOUP — an organization that holds monthly dinners to promote fundraising for creative projects in the city.

Youngstown SOUP hosts three dinners annually, where Mahoning Valley residents can submit community project proposals for funding. All of the money raised at the event goes back to the individual or group that wins the bid.

To participate in the event, a project proposal must be submitted. Committee members select four projects, and those who are involved in the proposal have four minutes to explain their proposal to audience members. A vote from the audience at the end of the night determines the winner.

The final SOUP event also marks the first time that a student project has been selected to be presented. Nick Chretien, vice president of YSUscape, said that he thinks the group’s submission to the event will positively impact Youngstown State University’s interaction with the rest of the Valley.

“I feel that it’s a positive step for the future of increased student involvement from Youngstown State University for community events within the city of Youngstown,” Chretien said. “I hope we can gather as much support as possible on Sunday to be the winning proposal at the third Youngstown Soup event.”

SOUP for the Valley

Kidd, member of the organizing committee for Youngstown SOUP, explained the process of every Youngstown SOUP event.

“It’s a fundraiser, first and foremost. We have different people from the community who volunteer and make homemade soup. Those people make about one pot of soup. We usually have anywhere between seven to ten soups in each event. We have community groups, small businesses, non-profits, whatever they may be, that submit to our organizing committee different project proposals,” Kidd said.

Admission into the Youngstown SOUP event is $5 and upon entrance, all audience members receive a ballot along with a soup bowl to vote. They get to sample all the different soups and listen to everyone’s proposal to vote on the best.

The winning project that night takes home all of the entrance fee money, and the winning soup gets a gift certificate to a local grocery store.

YSUscape seeks SOUP funding

Chretien explained that his proposal is to continue revitalizing buildings in and around the university.

“Our proposal is still in the beginning stages as YSUscape is continuing their mission statement to help revitalize the areas and neighborhoods surrounding the YSU campus to increase the overall aesthetic conditions of these areas and economic competitiveness of the city as a whole,” Chretien said.

The group decided to enter the Youngstown SOUP event because they want support from the community and hope to gain funds for future projects.

“YSUscape decided to enter Youngstown SOUP because we felt it would be a good first step toward gathering community support and potentially financial support, if we’re the winning proposal, which we can leverage to execute our future projects as it aligns with other ongoing efforts within the city,” Chretien said.

Chretien said that if they win the money, they want to collaborate with other organizations like the Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation, to have neighborhood workdays.

SOUP committee members speak

Lipinsky, Youngstown SOUP committee member and owner of Flannel Farms, said that he enjoys being involved in the community and the events.

“It’s been great to be able to raise over $1300 for two different community groups in just two events. I’m excited to see SOUP grow as more groups get involved and more people learn about the event,” he said. “The original idea was to provide a mechanism to fund small entrepreneurial projects that benefit the Youngstown community. It’s been an honor to help projects get funded and bring people together at our past two events.”

Allen, Youngstown SOUP committee member and president of ICU Block Watch, spoke on why she helps to organize events in the community like Youngstown SOUP.

“I’m a community event organizer so I really enjoy it. We get to meet new people; we all can come together. We all agree to disagree,” she said. “I really enjoy helping to put this event on, and it grows bigger each time. I hope to be able to find more projects in the future.”

Kidd said that the events provide everyone with a meal and a chance to learn about what others in the community have to offer.

“I think the best part of these events is they’re real practical. It’s fundraising without a lot of the give and take. You’re going to get a good meal; you’re probably going to learn about projects that you otherwise would not have known about. Even if they don’t get selected, there are some cool projects there you really didn’t know were going on in the community,” he said. “It gets them some additional exposure, and it brings a lot of people together.”

He added that it brings together a diverse crowd of people from Youngstown.

“You’re going to see people in that room that are old, young, black, white, city, suburb, the mayor to neighborhood leaders,” Kidd said. “It’s a nice concept, and it’s a really nice community building event.”

For future Youngstown SOUP events, or to submit a proposal, anyone can go to and sign up. Kidd said that the group is currently working to raise money for future SOUP events.

“What we’re going to try to do is raise some money for ourselves. We’ve been working on getting donations from cable companies and those who donate the bowls for our soup event. We’re really not operating on any kind of funding,” he said. “What we’d like to do is try and do a little bit of fundraising over the winter, and get some money so that we can buy our own table and things that we need so that we would be able to do these forever and ever and ever without having to ask for donations.”

Kidd said there might be another event coming in January, if the SOUP remains on the same schedule as last year.