Giving Back: Stone Soup Collective
When my friend Hal Harken kept mentioning the soup he helps make for the underprivileged, I felt compelled to experience it. Prompted by my ever present and severe FOMO (fear of missing out!), I followed Hal to Charleston Area Seniors on Meeting Street one Friday afternoon. Built originally as a warehouse for a traveling theater company in the 19th century, the 12,000 square foot building has since been a Cadillac dealership, Moose Club, YMCA and an armed services club before becoming the senior center in 1967. I had passed it hundreds of times next to Jestine’s Kitchen without ever noticing it.
The volunteer group cooking there on Friday afternoons is known as the “Stone Soup Collective.” It was started by Renee Orth, an energetic attorney with an off-the-charts social consciousness who transplanted from California. The nonprofit creates, sells and serves healthy, plant-based soups throughout the Charleston area. It is a “buy one, give one” model benefitting food-insecure seniors. Renee has teamed up with area farmers who donate excess produce that would otherwise perish. She concocts 2 vegan soup recipes incorporating the weekly vegetable donations. To watch her creative process is truly inspiring! Next, a crew of 8 to 12 diverse volunteers show up to chop the veggies, assemble the soup and serve it to senior citizens next door. Then they package the remainder to be doled out later to those in need.
I have grown quite fond of this merry band of “soupers” as they call themselves. Hal is the heart of the group and provides background music every week. It has become a dance of magical precision as all become accustomed to the process. Whenever my schedule permits, I can be found in the kitchen chopping, slicing, stirring and grooving with my new friends.