The Genesis Soup Run in Bath is celebrating a very special anniversary this autumn, turning 25 years old, and will be holding a party at the start of next month.
The strength of this Bath institution is that it’s entirely provided by the local community and is run by 340 volunteers of all ages from fifteen Bath churches.
The teams provide soup, sandwiches, cakes and hot drinks to homeless and vulnerable people in the city 365 nights a year – regardless of the weather.
To celebrate the longevity of this project , the charity is holding a party on 5th October at which three of Bath’s top chefs – Rachel Demuth, Chris Staines of Allium Brasserie and Rob Clayton of Clayton’s Kitchen – will be serving delicious soups to the many volunteers involved with this vital service.
The chefs are this year’s patrons of the charity’s Souper November fund raiser which will be launched at the anniversary party.
The soup run began in 1990, when a local woman, Gail Hodges, encountered some young homeless men rummaging through a bin for food in a Bath car park.
She talked with them and turned up the next night with soup and sandwiches for them and so it grew, as friends of hers and later churches got involved.
The project delivered an astounding 11,800 portions of soup to those in need last year.
Soup run coordinator , Cheryl Hannan said: “Clients are not all homeless and sleeping on the streets. Some have such basic accommodation they can’t cook a hot meal or their benefit money may have run out and they need help until the next payment arrives.
“Some clients are lonely or suffer from mental health problems and others have alcohol or drug related problems. We meet people who’ve become homeless because of marital breakdown or sudden loss of job.
“For most, it offers a place to come and get food and drink without being questioned as to why they’re there. It’s also an opportunity to socialise with others in similar circumstances.”
Genesis founder Sir Peter Heywood said the reason the project has survived for a quarter of a century is due to the unwavering dedication of those who run it.
“The fact that the Soup Run has continued every night for over 25 years is a massive tribute to all the volunteers and a testament to the faith that encourages them to keep on giving their time and their compassion month after month and year after year.”
One such volunteer is Annie Saberwal from St. Peter and St. Paul Catholic Church in Combe Down. She has been involved with the soup run since 1996.
She said: “The soup run is not just about food but about being alongside, listening, having fun and sharing a little time with those we serve; it is the spirit of friendship and identifying with those who could be our own brother, father or son.”
Annie’s team makes home made soup using whatever vegetables are in season, whilst other teams provide tinned soup.
Despite different soups being available, those who turn up are guaranteed a cup of something warm and nourishing.
The Soup Run has been supported by many local companies over the years. The Hilton Hotel provides hot food one night a week and students from Prior Park College also help one night a week.
Overseas students from Languages United on Walcot Street have also been involved by making pizzas for the clients and Pret a Manger provides sandwiches.
The clients are always very appreciative of any donations from local businesses and want say a big thank you to all of them on this special occasion.