On the first Monday of each month, 39 Carden Street Bistro is closed to the public to accommodate Soup Sisters Guelph, which prepares enough soup to last one month at Guelph Wellington Women in Crisis.
For $55 a person, volunteers prepare about 60 litres of soup from scratch under the supervision of 39 Carden chef Becky Hood.
“It gets (Women in Crisis) through the month, then we do it again and fill the freezer for the next month,” said Hood at Monday’s event.
In return, volunteers get a glass of wine when they arrive, a glass of wine at dinner, appetizers, salad, bread, as well as a bowl of freshly-made soup.
At the end of the night, the soup is packaged for distribution to Women in Crisis.
“It’s not just for women staying in the shelter, but women transitioning back into their lives and they don’t necessarily have a lot of money to work with, so they take it home with them,” said Hood. “Soup is a comfort food and I think it brings them comfort in their lives to know people are thinking about them and they are fed — soup goes a long way.”
Soup Sisters Guelph is part of the Soup Sisters non-profit charitable enterprise, which was founded in Calgary in 2009. The Guelph chapter began in 2014. It began locally at roughly the same time 39 Carden opened and has been held there ever since, said Jane Parmely, one of the coordinators for Soup Sisters Guelph.
“It took us probably a year to a year and a half to find a place to do it, because you need a certified kitchen and someone who can oversee cooking for a large group. It’s not as easy as you would think to find that space,” said Parmely.
“We lucked out with 39 Carden, they were just opening,” said Parmely. “At the time, they were closed on Mondays — which is why we do them on Mondays. Now they are open Mondays, but close on Monday once a month for us.”
On Monday, two groups of women participated in this month’s event — six women from a local book club and another 16 women from Guelph General Hospital.
Jennifer Garrity, manager of medicine for GGH, was one of the volunteers on Monday.
“We obviously service every person that comes to Guelph General, so we have a vested interest in the well being of the community,” said Garrity. “I think if you can combine a night of eating and drinking and socializing with doing some good while you’re at it — I think that’s a winning combination.”
The 22 women split into four groups, each making a different soup.
Hood works with the nutritional advisor at Women in Crisis each month to plan soups that will complement the shelter’s menu.
“She always tells me how much they love it. Sadly, there are a lot of children there, but the children appreciate it,” said Hood.
All of the ingredients are fresh, whole foods and one of the soups made Monday — Dirty Carrot Soup — is Hood’s own contribution to one of the national Soup Sisters cookbooks.
Soup Sisters Guelph operates every month except July and August and is currently booking into spring of 2019.
“2018 is booked solid and probably has been for the past two months,” said Parmely.
She said volunteers enjoy the social aspect of participating in Soup Sisters, but also the knowledge that they are helping vulnerable women and children in Guelph.
“I think they like doing something that is relatively quick and has a tangible outcome,” said Parmely. “They have a meal, they share some wine and they leave thinking they have done something that is benefiting their community.”
Garrity said she loves eating at 39 Carden.
“I think it’s exciting to come here on a night when it’s closed and meet some new friends and try some new recipes. It’s a fun night,” she said.