Soup Kitchen 2018

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History Of The Soup Kitchen


Barb Miller and Helen Snyder collaborated and pulled all our facts and our memories together to give us this updated and revised history of the Soup Kitchen! Do you have any Soup Kitchen memories that we can add to this story? Please send them to Barbamiller@vtc.net so they can become a part of the official historical account.

The tale of Birth Of The Soup Kitchen: The first mention appears in the minutes of the Portal Rescue board meeting in October 1996 when the Board was having a special session to come up with new fundraisers. Helen Snyder and Barbara Miller were Portal Rescue board members,  Devorie Griffiths was President, and as we talked about spaghetti suppers and pancake breakfasts, raffles and contests, Helen proposed the idea of holding a three-day Soup Kitchen during the Portal Café’s three-day annual closure for deep cleaning, an otherwise bleak time for fine dining in Portal. Barbara grabbed that ball and ran with it – planning, masterminding, organizing, producing and directing our very first and highly successful Soup Kitchen in February 1997. She continued in that role as chief supervisor for seven years,  training and managing others to take on more of the job under her guidance over the next few years.

Barbara remembers that first year vividly, before the classroom had been finished and we were in the little ambulance bay, the only PR building at the time. We parked the rescue vehicles outside and decorated the firehouse with juniper branches to hide the oxygen tanks and spineboards pushed along the  sides of that cavernous, chilly room.  Bill and Cathie Reinbold brought in their green Coleman camp stove to supplement the crockpot at the end of the extension cord.  This is how we kept the soups warm, and we used paper bowls and plastic spoons.   We had buckets of water for cleaning the tables. That first year we had seven different soups on each of the 3 days and the bottom of the soup pots were scraped clean. 

Jan Gee was in charge the second year (1998), with guidance from Barbara. It was our first time in the new classroom and was a race against time as the weekend before the Soup Kitchen, the toilets were still getting hooked up, the soap dispensers were filled and the kitchen plumbing was being finished.  We had twelve soups per day, breads, desserts and an ever-growing raffle often involving the highly popular bird carvings by Bill Reinbold, pet shots from Dr. John, and locally-made jewelry and works of art. 

The first years the Soup Kitchen were Portal Rescue functions, but the women’s service organization SewWhat gradually took it over in subsequent years. We produced a couple of cookbooks full of the best soup recipes.

After Barbara managed the Soup Kitchen for seven years, in May she was retiring from her Sew What presidency and she asked for a new leader for the Soup Kitchen.  JoAnn Julian took it over and there was no turning back.  JoAnn produced a large notebook full of laminated pages with timelines and marching orders that is still in use to this day.

Portal’s 3-day midwinter Soup Kitchen remains a highlight of the gastronomical and social year here. In 2017 it was proposed it be re-named Soup’s On. 


© Howard Topoff 2011