Arts and Entertainment

A recipe for community: Free food, fun music and good will at the Bainbridge Soup Kitchen

Bainbridge is a classy joint. But for one night, Kim Hendrickson wanted to eliminate class.

"A lot of people I know in different sectors on the island have been hit in various ways, and I came to the conclusion that rather than sit here feeling sorry for myself, I could do something," Hendrickson said.

The idea for Soup Kitchen came to Hendrickson earlier this year, after a "really crummy winter," during which she couldn't find a job and her husband took a pay cut.

The event she envisioned didn't have any particular moral agenda or "call to arms," she noted on a Soup Kitchen blog she set up. Instead, what she sought was an inclusive downtown gathering with free food, good music and the company of neighbors, as a way of fostering cheerful and class-blind camaraderie in Winslow.

Hendrickson also hoped Soup Kitchen could generate honest dialogue about how the economic downturn has affected Bainbridge, and about what community members can do to help each other.

"Soup Kitchen is a statement that says, there are a lot of diverse people on this island, and they're all welcome at this event," she said.

Hendrickson had volunteered at soup kitchens in the past and found them "to be uniformly grim events," with more volunteers than recipients and "an obvious divide between those who give and those who receive...and an obvious glumness."

Good food, she reasoned, could have the power to engender good feeling. So she teamed with Lari Seltzer and Josh Bortman of Real Foods to get two kinds of soup on, and secured a bunch of friends and a commercial kitchen to make cornbread.

"I don't mean to sound over the top here, but we're making it with love," Hendrickson said.

Since she couldn't picture a party without music, she contacted Norm Johnson of Music Community Resources, the local nonprofit promotion organization behind the weekly Pegasus music series.

Johnson pulled out all the stops, Hendrickson said, to lend organizational support and to locate bands who could play gypsy jazz and other evocative Depression-era tunes. Although the goal, she added, would not be to depress.

"It's high-quality, interesting music, and I think it'll really set the mood that we are together in a celebration," she said.

Hendrickson taught urban politics back in Washington, D.C., where she and her family lived before coming to Bainbridge. And the irony of her present situation doesn't escape her: She spent years analyzing issues of politics and charity, she said, and now she's on an island without a job.

Still, the situation isn't without its rewards. She can live some of the ideas she used to teach, and appreciate her gifts.

"We're all still alive, and we're on this gorgeous island. The economy stinks, but at least we're here together, and we can have a party," she said.

Soup's on: The community is invited to Soup Kitchen, from 5-7 p.m. Saturday, May 23 at the empty storefront on Madrone Lane, across from the ice cream store. Children are welcome, and the event is free; proceeds from donations will go to Helpline House. More information is on the web at Bainbridge Soup Kitchen blog.

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