Flushing SOUP program funds community projects

By Madina Toure

Inspired by a similar program in Detroit, the Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce kicked off a micro-granting effort at a crowd-funded community dinner last week that supported projects to help the neighborhood .

Held at the Flushing Meetinghouse at 137-16 Northern Blvd. April 15, the SOUP community dinner was based on a grassroots model created in Detroit after the city went bankrupt in 2013.

SOUP events have been taking place throughout the country to help neighborhoods fund new ideas to benefit their communities.

“The people in Detroit started to organize and develop these soups where people would share a meal and groups would come in and present their proposals for helping the community and whoever got the most votes would get the money that was raised that night,” John Choe, the chamber’s executive director, said.

Choe said the program was successful in Flushing.

“We were able to do a soup and raise more than $800 for our local community service initiative,” he said.

For a $5 donation, attendees received a ballot and shared a potluck community meal, with contributions from Dosa Hut, Phil & Sons Pizzeria and Restaurant, New Asian Food, Queens Natural Meats, Starbucks, Leaf Bar & Lounge and Green Earth Urban Gardens.

Four community groups pitched their plans to improve Flushing. Attendees then voted for their favorite initiative and the project with the most votes won all the money raised.

The winning project was the Earth Citizens Club of Flushing’s Adopt-A-Block project, a seven-day pilot on Roosevelt Avenue between Union and Main streets that would include cleaning streets and sidewalks and create positive signage sponsored by residents and businesses. The project was awarded $832.

Of that total, $382 was raised at the dinner and a combined $450 came from sponsors Green Earth Urban Gardens, Susten Corp. and Alice Lee. The project will be coming to downtown Flushing next month.

The Korean Americans for Political Advancement’s project, Community Organizing Language Forums, would teach civically engaged Korean and Mandarin speakers how to communicate policy issues to neighbors in these languages.

Another project, Bee Aware Mural Initiative, by the RFK Community High School’s Ganeinu Early Learning Center, is a mural located at the center painted by RFK students highlighting the diminishing bee population. The final project was Guardians of Flushing Bay’s kickoff event, Community Gathering to Clean Flushing Bay!

Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtoure@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.