Soup fundraiser savoury labour of love


Awesome is how Niagara College president Dan Patterson describes the soups at Soup’s On.

“They really are. They are a labour of love,” he said from the basement hall at St. Kevin Church in Welland.

Patterson was among those who came out for the first of three sittings at the annual event held to raise funds for scholarships which are awarded to students active in social service programs graduating from high schools within the Welland area, but also including Blessed Trinity in Grimsby, Lakeshore Catholic in Port Colborne and E.L. Crossley in Pelham.

While he’s been attending the event for the past 12 years, Patterson said the college has been involved the whole time through its Canadian Food and Wine Institute program, with students and chef professors working together to create the soups.

“The chefs help guide the students and they always take them (the soups) to the next level.

It’s always fun to try the various soups, too.”

Patterson said he also likes to see the college students working alongside the various schools and others that are involved in the event.

“I really love it when the school boards and college get together … seeing the young people speaking to each other and sharing the recipes of incredible soups.”

In addition to serving great soups, Patterson said the college students also get a chance to serve the community.

“Soup’s On gives students a chance to see their sense of social responsibility, giving back for social justice causes. It’s really important and helps create strong vibrant communities,” he said.

Eastdale Secondary School chef/culinary teacher Roland Pouliot said this year’s event marks the sixth time the high school and its culinary students have attended.

“The students really love it. They enjoy making the soups and serving them.”

Pouliot said the soups served are chosen by all of the students at Eastdale.

“We do the cafeteria service at the school and we get reviews from the students. The top soups always end up here,” he said.

Lakeshore Catholic High School chef/culinary teacher Joe Fabiano said his students were serving up a roasted butternut squash soup topped with a pear compote.

“It’s our seventh year here now. Joe (Barkovich, the organizer) always runs a great event … and it’s for a worthy cause,” he said.

Last year, a student from the Port Colborne school was a recipient of a scholarship.

Fabiano said he and the culinary students start talking about the soup for the event as early as September.

“We local for a local ingredient and base our soup around that,” he said.

Trying not only Lakeshore’s soup for the first time, but all of the others, was Port Colborne resident Bonnie Johnston.

“The soups are very good, though the pepper bread is making my mouth burn,” she said.
She planned to head up for another round, but wasn’t sure which soup she was going to sample.

Sitting with Johnston was Ann Simunic, who invited her and five other friends to attend.

Simunic has been coming to Soup’s On for the last 16 years and said when Barkovich introduced it, she said she would come every year.

“It’s to support the kids … to encourage them. They work really hard and it’s really something to see.”

She said the soups are always good and likes that they are changed every year.

Organizer Joe Barkovich said while there is a solid core of people, like Simunic, who come out faithfully year after year, Soup’s On also sees good turnover each year, with new people coming out to support it.

He said it’s the soup and a chance to share it with friends, making it an occasion to get together, that brings people to St. Kevins.

“And of course it’s the price, too. Ten dollars for all you can eat … the price is the same as it was when we started. We pledge every year to keep it at that, we have no intention of increasing it.”

He said Soup’s On is very appreciative of all those who do come out and support it, whether for the first time or year after year.

All three sittings – 11 a.m., noon and 1 p.m. – were sold out this year and it was expected that between 350 and 400 people from across the community would come out to sample the soups

“When we started this, we did one sitting from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. rather than three and had no idea what to expect the first time. As it turned out, very few people came out between 11 a.m. to noon. We were swamped at 12 by 200 people, it was crazy in here.”

Barkovich said Soup’s On learned from that experience and decided it needed three different sittings.

When it first started, Niagara College, Notre Dame College School, and Club Richelieu were the first ones to take part and serve up soup.

Throughout the years, the number of soup makers has grown to between seven and eight, with a very steady core year after year as well. Barkovich said there are talks with a new party that may become involved in the event next year.

This year, in addition to Niagara College, Lakeshore and Eastdale, Blessed Trinity High School, Confederation secondary school, Notre Dame, and local business Stephanie the Lunch Lady were part of the event.

And over the years, Soup’s On has handed out 45 scholarships.

Barkovich said a committee distributes applications to area schools and it’s up to students to apply. Those that do are brought in for a “complex and detailed interview.”

From there, the committee looks at the responses and makes a decision based on a number of factors.

“We give out two or as many as six scholarships a year.”

 Photo Credits and Captions: Ann Simunic, left, and Bonnie Johnston were at the annual Soup's On event at St. Kevin Church in Welland Friday morning sampling some savoury soups. Dave Johnson/Welland Tribune