Doing Good In Detroit

BY Taylor Rebhan

Detroit Soup is rapidly becoming the gold standard for how to create community and raise funds for projects that have a direct impact on local issues. We’re talking very local issues, those that have a tangible effect not just on one’s city, but on one’s neighborhood. The concept is simple–participants contribute five dollars at the door, listen to presentations by four groups, and then vote for whichever group they feel is most deserving of the the money collected that night. It’s an example of democracy in its purest form, with the added benefit of volunteer-made soup for all participants to enjoy after voting.

The experience is remarkably different from donating to a large charity, or even donating money to a small project on kickstarter, if for no other reason than that it happens in real, physical space, thereby facilitating and encouraging interaction among neighbors and creative folks who otherwise might never meet. This creates an environment of unlimited upside and potential, where people with big ideas are introduced to people with practical talents, ultimately resulting in creative solutions–which is really just a complicated way of saying it creates a real community.

We recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Amy Kaherl, the driving force behind Detroit Soup. Read on to see the results of our conversation.

Where are you from, and how long have you been in Detroit?

I grew up in the suburbs of Detroit in Sterling Heights. I left in 1999 and went to college in Grand Rapids, MI, lived in Lansing, MI, and Cleveland, Ohio, went to grad school in Los Angeles and found myself back in the city at the end of 2008! I just celebrated my three year anniversary of living in Woodbridge on April 1st!

How did the concept for Detroit Soup come about?

Detroit SOUP was founded in the Mexicantown neighborhood of Detroit in February 2010 by Kate Daughdrill and Jessica Hernandez. The idea was taken from InCUBATE (a research group dedicated to exploring new approaches to arts administration and arts funding) who started the idea in a neighborhood in Chicago. 

Are there any memorable projects that Soup funded that really stand out to you?

The Empowerment Plan from Veronika Scott is one of the most successful projects that got its start with SOUP. I also loved a playground called Bridge to the Garbage King, a lot that was once used for dumping in Highland Park now is a playground for kids in the neighborhood. I loved the DCH Apparel group that turned an idea about teaching high school students to screen print into an after school program.

Are you in Detroit for the long haul, or do you ever think about moving elsewhere?

As of today I want to stay in Detroit for a long time! The friendships and relationships I have here are beyond my wildest expectations. Unless something major happens (what that would be I don’t really know) I’m here to stay!


Photo by David Lewinski

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