Have you ever been to a Salida Soup? If not, its a concept worth knowing about.  Brought to you by visionary nice-guys Jimmy Sellars and Mark Monroe, the soup is a community micro-granting dinner.  The inaugural dinner was in June, 2015, and last week the 16th monthly installment was held.  The movement has been going on around the country for at least 6 years and has been used to help cities like Detroit rebuild community, and to introduce in Boston healthy locally grown produce while supporting the arts.

In Salida, Sellars and Monroe donate enough soup to feed roughly 100 people and then arrange the Steamplant Ballroom for a potluck.  First of all, the soup is always fantastic.  Each session, after sharing dinner, projects are presented, and vie for funding from the “pot.”  The 5$ admission from each attendee along with frequent generous additions from local businesses like High Country Bank can earn the winning proposal 200 to sometimes 500 or 600 dollars to improve our community.  And of course, several volunteers and folks from the StemPlant help make this all possible.  Next month, the event will raise funds to keep the worthy event itself going.

This past Soup, like many, has shown how our community can come together to value and support the arts.  The winner was Andre Wilkins’ High School Jazz Band. The band has earned a place to compete in San Antonio, Texas against other bands from around the nation.  This performance nearly completes the amazingly hard work theyhave accomplished, raising almost 12 of the 16,000 dollars required to make this trip.  After seeing them perform and hearing Wilkins’ passionate account of what the program has meant to our kids, it would have been difficult for the attendees not to help them toward their goal.  Wilkins has been a champion of music education.  He has risen to the task of teaching for each band instrument to every child in the middle and high schools of Salida.  Wilkins’ many talents have enabled us to img_1681continue a robust music program for our children which studies have shown to help develop higher level thinking and intelligence, improve attention and concentration, as well as generally foster happier young people.  Wilkins thanked the crowd on behalf of the kids who played beautifully and showed all the attributes of a great team as they played, set up and took down their gear.  There are definitely expenses to having a music program of this quality, but the benefits to the kids seem to stack up favorably to other academic and athletic programs and help form a more vibrant and interesting community in which to live.

The bitter part of this Salida Soup was that superb quality runner-up ideas couldn’t all win.  A coalition of local cultural entities called ‘Salida Stories’ presented another community building idea involving oral history.  Over a conversation about the many unheard voices in the well-seasoned soup of Salida – the town itself – an idea was born to collect recorded interviews of Salidans telling tales.  These stories are intended to be produced for radio and performance events, sometimes with professional actors.  This will enable all members of the community, especially the newer ones, experience the heritage and varied experiencesimg_1682 that have created the flavor of the town.  As Salida grows and changes, the ‘Stories’ will always be there to preserve our heritage in the actual words of Salida’s own characters.  The presenters also mentioned their intent to include the stories of Salida ‘transplants,’ and each offered a story of their own to highlight the variety of backgrounds present.  Luckily, this ambitious group of Lisa Marvel – owner of the BookHaven, Leslie Campbell of KHEN, Ken Brandon – owner of Box of Bubbles and Sara Foster – Physical Therapist at the Heart of The Rockies Hospital and community organizer; will likely keep this project rolling despite the set back at the Soup.

img_1684Lastly, but equally impressive was a return participant: Full Circle Restorative Justice.  Lead by Patty Lataille, FCRJ is a non-profit serving Chaffee County.  The intent is to help kids who have gotten themselves into legal trouble have a less formal alternative to adjudication when appropriate.  Restorative Justice itself involves an actual circle of participants.  There is the offender, the victim of the crime, a facilitator such as Lataille, other representatives from the community, and families.  This format allows direct and mediated conversation between the party affected by the crime and the party who comitted the crime so a fair structure of restitution can be worked out.  In this way, the offender can understand how his or her actions have affected another specifically and the victim can understand what precipitated the crime and seek a more personal and healing form of justice than a court can usually provide.  RestorativeJustice.org says it thusly: “Restorative justice is a theory of justice that emphasizes repairing the harm caused by criminal behaviour. It is best accomplished through cooperative processes that include all stakeholders. This can lead to transformation of people, relationships and communities.”  In Lataille’s experience, RJ has positively affected rehabilitation and recidivism rates and has greatly benefitted the youth of our county.  Fortunately, this good work will also continue as well, but one can always find ways to help by contacting the FCRJ at http://www.fullcirclerj.net

Please consider supporting our community by attending January’s Salida Soup.