Ministry offers ‘radical hospitality’ with Rooster Soup for Philly’s soul

Listen

A Philadelphia doughnut shop and a Center City congregation have teamed up to launch a crowd-funded business that would help feed the city’s hungry.

When the doors of the Broad Street Ministry open for service four days a week, there’s no way to tell how many people will be dropping by. But it’s not the hymns that bring the masses to this Center City sanctuary. Visitors seek the meal, the community, the support and social services offered by the pastors, volunteers and staff.

Organizers, including Convening Minister Bill Golderer, have spent years setting just the right tone to build a community of trust and acceptance. So they started using this language of “radical hospitality,” welcoming everybody.

And welcome they did.

Some of Philadelphia’s most vulnerable citizens are regulars at the ministry. But for people to really trust the helping hand offered to them, they need to know it’s not going to be yanked away at a moment’s notice. They need to know there will be food left when they get there, and that the promises made are promises kept.

Sitting down to dinner is a luxury that can easily be taken for granted. And for folks who have fallen on hard times, finding something to eat, let alone something nutritious, is often a very traumatic experience.

At the Broad Street Ministry, there are no lines or food trays. Guests are welcomed, seated and served, as in any one of the hundreds of restaurants in Philadelphia — which makes their model vastly different from most others helping the hungry and homeless.

So far, the ministry’s dining model has been a success. But finding a sustainable funding source that would allow Broad Street to grow its services and operate seven days a week has been a challenge.

Of soup and sustenance

Luckily, the ministry has friends such as Steve Cook of Cook and Solo and the restaurant team behind Percy Street BBQ, Zahav Restaurant and Federal Donuts. He and his partners in the Federal Donuts crew have teamed up with the Broad Street Ministry to find a way to help support their hospitality collaborative in a sustainable way — not just by donating soup, but by creating a funding source.

Cook has been on the board of Broad Street Hospitality Collaborative for the past two years and has seen first hand the work that they do.

“Being in the hospitality business, we have an obligation to kind of try to lead this effort,” said Cook.

“As Federal Donuts has grown, we’ve had on our hands more and more by-product from the chickens that we’re selling,” he said. “And since we’re pretty good at turning chickens into profits, we came up with the idea of taking that by-product, which are the backs and bones of the chickens, turning that into soup and then using the profits from that soup to funnel back into Broad Street’s hospitality efforts.”

Just as the Broad Street Ministry’s radical hospitality initiative is an innovative way of helping the city’s impoverished, Rooster Soup Company and its crowd-funded Kickstarter campaign is an innovative approach to donations — by asking the public to donate to the start-up funds, and then by patronizing the business, continuing the circle and funding the nonprofit and its efforts.

Completing the circle

“Instead of a straight line between us and Broad Street’s guests, we wanted to make more of a circle,” said Cook. “We wanted to find a way for the community to get involved. So it’s not just from us to Broad Street. It’s from us to Rooster Soup Company to the community coming in, eating lunch, and knowing that by just eating lunch — something they do every day — they can contribute to helping a problem that affects us all, which is hunger and homelessness.”

Because in the end, it’s all about feeding people.

“What we’re hoping is that Philadelphia embraces this very unique model, whereby if you’re walking by somebody on the street in Philadelphia and you see them down and out, and struggling and you don’t know what to do, if the Rooster Soup Company were to exist, you could, by your purchasing power, help that person just by ordering lunch,” said Broad Street Ministry’s Golderer.

While the menu is still very much in development, Cook promises that this won’t be just any old soup. There will be options to add noodles or additional meat, as well as gluten-free and vegetarian choices.

“If we decide we want to have it, we can be empowered to make it happen,” said Golderer. “I’m really excited about the partnership, across faith traditions, across business and nonprofit and, frankly, across economic development and all the ways we want to see people employed. I feel like this is a really cool project, and I just hope Philadelphia agrees.”

But at this point, all of these plans are still in the air.

The first step is to fund the launch of the business. With less than three weeks left, the goal is to reach $150,000.

“The thing that we need right now is contributions to our Kickstarter campaign,” said Felicia D’Ambrosio, a partner in Federal Donuts and communications director for Cook and Solo.

And they’re offering incentives: “from free doughnuts and fried chicken to skydiving with Mike Solo, to private dinners at Zahav,” said D’Ambrosio.

“Basically, give us your money. We’re going to do something amazing with it. And your one-time contribution becomes literally a perpetual-motion money-making machine for an incredibly impactful nonprofit in Philadelphia,” she said.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.