When Amy Kaherl moved back to Detroit from California in 2008, the recession was in full swing, and the city, as a whole, was in shambles. Despite knowing the Motor City was far from prosperity, Amy was compelled to stay.
Two years after her move, Amy got involved with a community-building initiative that has since caught on like wildfire. Detroit Soup, started by Kate Daughdrill and Jessica Hernandez, brings local artists and entrepreneurs together to pitch ideas on how to revive their hometown. February 12 was the project's two-year anniversary and about 400 people came to take part.
A Detroit Soup event in July 2011. (Photo: Vanessa Miller)
The meeting is held inside a loft space, where a simple dinner of soup, salad and homemade pie is served. It costs just $5 for the meal, and as part of the evening, community members vote on four project proposals. The winner gets the funds from the dinner to help establish their project. Typically this amount is about $800.
It's really inspiring to see people come together.
Amy is now the director of Detroit Soup and says what she witnessed at the first dinner, and each one after, is that Detroiters "do things with passion and with heart." "Egos," she says, "are left at the door."
The projects that are pitched typically focus on social justice, urban agriculture, art, and entrepreneurship. For example, past winner The Empowerment Plan, started by Veronika Scott, helps Detroit's homeless stay warm at night with self-heated and waterproof coats that transform into sleeping bag.
February's winners were siblings Andy, Emily, and Rob Linn, seventh-generation Detroiters who take great pride in their hometown. While Andy and Emily were minding their Detroit shops, they kept coming across visitors who wanted to know what there was to see and do in town. The Linns quickly learned there hadn't been a printed guidebook for Detroit since the early 1980s and set out to change this. Thanks to Detroit Soup, they are one step closer to seeing their project, Belle Isle to 8 Mile: An Insider's Guide to Detroit, come to fruition.
For the Linns, and for hundreds of other Detroiters, Detroit Soup has been a powerful experience and one that provides a boost to a city in repair. "It's really inspiring to see people come together," says Andy Linn.