Known as a “SOUP,” the community dinner kicked off a week of Earth Day-related activities, including the annual New York City Green Job Fair on April 22 at St. George’s Church.
“The Greater Flushing SOUP encourages community members to get to know one another and support local civic initiatives though the framework of a potluck-style dinner where participants eat, vote, and fund one local project,” said Cody Herrmann, project coordinator at the Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce.
For a $5 donation, attendees received a ballot and shared a community meal, which was supplemented with generous contributions by Dosa Hut, Phil & Sons Pizzeria and Restaurant, New Asian Food, Queens Natural Meats, Starbucks, Leaf Bar & Lounge, and Green Earth Urban Gardens.
During dinner, four local community groups pitched their plan to improve the Greater Flushing area. At the end of the presentations, attendees voted for their favorite initiative. The project with the most votes won all the money raised at the event.
The four projects were:
• Adopt-A-Block (Earth Citizens Club of Flushing): A seven-day pilot on Roosevelt Avenue between Union and Main streets which will include cleaning street/sidewalks and positive signage sponsored by local residents and businesses.
• Community Organizing Language Forums (Korean Americans for Political Advancement): Filling in the language access void in Flushing by teaching civically engaged Korean and Mandarin speakers how to reach out to neighbors on policy issues in these languages.
• Bee Aware Mural Initiative (Ganeinu Early Learning Center, RFK Community High School, "For The Good of The Hive"): A mural located at Ganeinu Early Learning Center painted by students from RFK High School, shining light on the issue of the depleting bee population and its effects on humanity.
• Kick-Off event for Community Gathering to Clean Flushing Bay followed later this summer by Live at Flushing Bay (Guardians of Flushing Bay): Mobilizing the community to stand up for improved water quality in Flushing Bay and Creek through waterfront clean-ups and cultural programming along the waterfront.
After the votes were tallied, the Earth Citizens Club of Flushing and their Adopt-A-Block project were awarded $832, with a total of $382 raised at the dinner, and a combined $450 coming from sponsors Green Earth Urban Gardens, Susten Corp, and Alice Lee.
The Adopt-A-Block program will begin work on Roosevelt Avenue in downtown Flushing next month.
The SOUP community dinner was adopted from a grassroots model developed in Detroit after the city went bankrupt in 2013. Since then, SOUP events have been popping up all over the country to help local neighborhoods start conversations and fund new ideas to benefit the local community.
“We see SOUP as a powerful tool to engage our community, raise awareness about important issues, and connect social entrepreneurs with potential funders,” said chamber executive director John Choe. “Along the way, we hope to promote businesses that support our community and provide an opportunity to re-imagine our future.”