Soup at Six was started in 1983 by a group of six people operating out of the basement of a church on Clark Street north of Main. Relying on donations for its funding, the volunteers who run the kitchen work diligently every Tuesday to feed all who are in need. However, this soup kitchen has something special that sets it apart from its competitors in Evanston.
Erica Hall, the woman who runs the kitchen, is a retired chef from Belize. First thing every Tuesday morning she prepares an enormous feast for the guests that will come to eat that night. She is warm and friendly to all new visitors and volunteers. When asked why she has dedicated her energy to running the soup kitchen, Hall said, “I’ve fed people all my life; it’s what I love to do.” She prides herself on Soup on Six being the best soup kitchen in the area because of the high quality of the food, which she is happy to eat herself. Because of Hall’s dedication, the guests really notice and appreciate the care that goes into the food.
You can see the profound impact of this soup kitchen through the volunteer Terry Hammond. Thirteen years ago, Hammond was homeless as a result of medical issues and became a regular visitor to the soup kitchen. He was cared for by all of the volunteers and decided to become a volunteer himself. Now, every week he rides the Metra from the Southside of Chicago to Evanston so he can help serve. Hammond said, “What makes this place special is the volunteers. They make this a wonderful environment that supports the neighborhood. They never turn anyone away.”
One of the most outstanding volunteers at the soup kitchen is Bob. He is a tough man who drives a colossal pickup truck and goes camping every weekend, but he lives according to the philosophy that people have an obligation to help others. He understands that these homeless people are not only hungry for food, but also hungry for someone to care about them. He said, “Soup at Six is an organization with a meaningful purpose. This kitchen is not just a fly-by-night operation, it is helping people out for the long run.” He explained that just feeding the people isn’t enough. By getting to know them, he can get to the root of their problems, and then find help for them.
He notices people every week that have strange habits that others might overlook. One guest, Javier, asks for hot sauce every week. One may think that Javier just likes spicy food, but Bob understands that Javier likes to have something given to him for once; he feels cared for. This small gesture may seem trivial but Bob notices how much it means to the guests.
Another guest, Paulette, once came with poems she had written. Bob sat with her and read all of them. Listening to her made Paulette feel like someone cared for her. Bob’s consideration for all people makes him an admirable person. Everyone should care for the marginalized as much as he does.
Soup at Six is a special place because it provides more than just delicious food for the homeless; it provides an environment that gives support to all the visitors. In a world where the homeless are commonly overlooked, it is increasingly important to have places like this where they are given dignity and cared for. Everyone can learn a lesson from how this soup kitchen is run. While providing nourishment for people in need is good, caring for others is something that everyone needs to strive to do.
Featured image credits to Jasmine Gong