When Dee Alkarawy Hamka attended her first Detroit SOUP venture last year, she found herself staring at a magnificent idea that she immediately wanted to bring to Dearborn. She saw members of the Detroit community coming together to support artists, celebrate their heritage, reinvest in their own local talent and, of course, enjoy good food and camaraderie.
“Dearborn has all of these things and I knew we were ready for it,” said Hamka, who is also a budding artist. “By day, I wear the pencil skirt and by night, I’m in my jeans drawing with a pencil."
Hamka, who lives and works in Dearborn, is the driving force behind , happening for the first time at 6:30 p.m. Sunday at the .
According to SOUP information, it is best described as a democratic grassroots micro-grant program; a project that is a loosely organized network of meal-based granting initiatives designed to support local entrepreneurs whose ideas will positively impact the community in the areas of the arts, humanities, or green initiatives.
How it works: Organizers host a dining event (in this instance, soup and salad) and charge a nominal fee, which is the money used for the “grant.”
Three to five previously selected individuals have the opportunity to present their creative project to diners and ask for their vote at the end of the meal. The person with the most votes receives the money from the evening’s dinner to use toward their vision.
The setup and food are provided by generous supporters. Soup and salad (all prepared vegetarian) are donated by volunteers and local businesses. Individuals provide the support for the event.
This is intended to be the first of monthly Dearborn SOUP micro-grant evenings. The group will go on hiatus when Detroit SOUP is hosting their dinners (once a quarter) as there is often crossover energy between groups.
Dearborn is the fourth SOUP in metro Detroit. The other three are Detroit SOUP, Spaulding Court SOUP and Hamtramck SOUP. Detroit SOUP was founded by Katie Daughdrill, who has been instrumental in helping Hamka and others bring the Dearborn SOUP to the table.
The events are intended to move to different locations each month, so all of the furniture and fixings are designed to be mobile. Edward Orlowski, an architecture professor at Lawrence Technological University, and his students designed and built a transportable voting booth for Dearborn SOUP.
Hamka was thrilled with this inventive booth when she saw the concept rendering. “It is so funky and cool, it’s amazing," she said. "I can’t wait to see it in person."
Businesses such as Home Depot on Ford road provided doors (used as tabletops) for the event, donated materials, provided collateral, and many others have contributed time, money and talent to set the stage for SOUP’s ingredients for success.
Melissa Kania, a key member of the organizing team and administrative assistant of the , believes that Dearborn is ripe for this kind of support for the arts.
“There is such an overwhelming sense of community spirit right here in Dearborn; people who are marvelously dedicated to the betterment of the area," Kania said. "I am personally inspired by that."
Kania cited several other new projects that are indicators of this momentum in the Dearborn arts community, such as the Midwest Sculpture Initiative, the innovative ArtSpace and Pockets of Perception from the Dearborn Community Fund.
Fellow organizer and Dearborn Chamber of Commerce President Jennifer Giering shared her enthusiasm for SOUP.
“Dearborn has thoroughly embraced this concept," Giering said. "People are always looking for ways to make a difference and this is a great opportunity that is family-friendly, affordable and impactful.
"I can't wait to see the outpouring of support this Sunday.”
Giering’s predictions may come true as the organizers expect a crowd of 200.
Hamka said this type of innovative, grassroots funding project is in some other markets across the country but is gaining quick momentum in metro Detroit as the community works diligently to recover from difficult economic times.
Local SOUPs have even garnered attention in national media. A Discovery Channel representative has contacted Hamka and may attend Dearborn SOUP on Sunday to get a close-up view. Whether Discovery comes to the table to enjoy SOUP or not, this evening is going to make a positive investment in a worthy local endeavor.
The cost to attend Dearborn SOUP is $5 per person, and tickets available at the door.
If you’re interested in volunteering for the Dearborn SOUP, donating supplies (old doors, dishes, rugs, tables, chairs, etc), donating food or if you’d like to submit an application for grant consideration, call Hamka at 313-801-4444 or e-mail her firstname.lastname@example.org Follow Dearborn SOUP on Facebook.