Salida Soup Presenters Seek Funding Each Month

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On the third Thursday of every month for the past 4 years, Salidans have come to the SteamPlant Event Center Ballroom with food and a $5 donation, ready to listen to three compelling presentations from their friends and neighbors, hoping to win enough votes to collect the night's earnings...the Soup Pot. Sellars Project Space began Salida Soup in June of 2015. In fact, their first Soup was scheduled the same time as the infamous FiBARK's Hill Climb event.

"People said to us, 'So sorry you're not going to have anyone show up to your event. It sounds interesting.'", Sellars Project Space founder Jimmy Sellars remembers. "We ended up having nearly 40 people show up to our first Soup at the Community Center that night! I think we were all happily surprised."

Since then, Salida Soup has become a popular event each month, with average attendance of around 75 people. "Depending on who is presenting, and how well they get the word out, we can have a packed house for sure.", Sellars Project Space co-director Mark Monroe says. "Our biggest Soups are usually when one of the local schools is presenting. Those nights can get kind of rowdy towards the end, when it's time to vote."

The premise of Salida Soup is simple: three local organizations or individuals give five-minute presentations about their projects and what they need the money for. They are allowed to take four questions from the diners, after which the diners vote on the most worthy presentation to receive the funds collected that night:whoever gets the most votes takes home the cash. In addition to those monies, Sellars Project Space also gets an additional anonymous donation of $250 to augment the pot. (Fun Soup fact: the largest Soup pot ever awarded was given at the October 2018 event - $1256 went to the Salida Montessori Charter School for their school garden program).

"I always say that magic happens at the Soup.", Monroe says, alluding to the numerous times that presenters who did not win the Soup pot still got funded - sometimes right there at the event itself. "A couple of presenters even left with checks totaling more than the award given that night!" Those who do not win are invited to present at a future Soup; many have, and a few have garnered the winnings at a different Soup.

Sellars and Monroe make the soup each month, utilizing ingredients donated by Soup sponsor Burmac's Grocery. The soup is always vegan, and almost always gluten-free. During the summer and fall, local CSAs will often donate produce for the soup as a way to contribute. Even the Guidestone Community & School Farms have helped out with fresh, healthy produce.

"Food is the universal thing that brings a community together.", says Sellars. "As in the fable 'Stone Soup', a little help from everyone turns into more than enough for all. We have gotten such great feedback from diners, especially from the first-timers who have never experienced something like this." Monroe agrees. "People come back often. We've seen the same folks since the beginning...they may not make every single one, but their support is there for sure." Also returning each Soup are the volunteers - a crew of helpers that have been with the event, nearly since it started. Each volunteer gets a special apron from local shop the Hodgepodge. "It's easy to see who is working and who is a diner that way." Monroe says with a grin.

The couple saw a need in the community - small community-driven projects, typically ineligible to receive funding from most granting sources or lending institutions, were struggling to get the financial support they needed to get something started, or to finish that last piece of the project. "With the Soup, here is a way to not only bring a community together over a meal, but to also engage their hearts in projects and programs they may have never otherwise known about." says Monroe. "It's a beautiful thing."

February 21st marks Salida Soup 45, and there are already three awesome presenters on the ballot: Manifest Action Sports, Alpine Achievers Initiative, and GARNA. For many diners, the choice of who gets the funding is a very difficult decision. "We watch people struggle with their vote, like, really, really think hard about it. And in the end, they always choose correctly." Sellars says.

Salida Soup 45 will be Thursday, February 21st, at the SteamPlant Event Center Ballroom. Doors open at 6 p.m., dinner starts at 6:30 p.m., and presentations begin around 7 p.m. A potluck item and a $5 donation gets a ballot to vote in the night's proceedings. For more information, or to sign up to become a Presenter, visit salidasoup.org.

Salida SoupMark Monroe