Jan. 24 community meal will benefit Reaching Heights

It was a full house at the Bottlehouse as the community enjoyed the Soup and Bread Experiment in November.

On Wednesday, Jan. 24, the BottleHouse Brewery and Meadery, at 2050 Lee Road, will host Northeast Ohio’s first Soup and Bread Experiment (SBE) of 2018. The event will run from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., or until the soup runs out. The event is free to the public, with donations requested, but not required, for the hot meal. Money raised will benefit Reaching Heights, the nonprofit that supports the Cleveland Heights-University Heights public schools.

At the last SBE fundraiser, in November, Krista Hawthorne, executive director of Reaching Heights, was so impressed she wanted to plan an SBE event for her own organization.

“The soups were delicious!” said Hawthorne. “They ran the gamut from exotic coconut vegan curry to hearty deconstructed stuffed cabbage stew. The drinks available for purchase from the BottleHouse were as exciting as they were warming. The bartender navigated me through the world of meads, sours and bitters to find the perfect accompaniment to my meal. I even squeezed in a game of pinball at the BottleHouse’s mini arcade. The best part of the evening, however, was the opportunity to break bread with other Heights community members for a good cause.”

SBE began seven years ago in Chicago as a ”community meal project and a fun, grassroots way to raise money for hunger-relief organizations and other good causes,” according to the organization’s website.

Inspired by the SBE in Chicago, Simona Mkrtschjan of Cleveland Heights launched the program in Northeast Ohio last year. After the presidential election, Mkrtschjan recalled “feeling isolated and helpless and [needing] to do something wholly positive.” Having eyed BottleHouse as a possible venue for SBE, due to its large size and civic-minded values, Mkrtschjan set her plan into action last March.

Using the Chicago SBE’s hunger-relief model, Mkrtschjan contacted Mary LaVigne-Butler, vice president of external affairs for the Greater Cleveland Food Bank, and together they hosted four successful fundraising events last year.

“At the most recent event I couldn’t get over the number of people and the atmosphere—so very positive and lively. There were lots of new faces—such a great way to build community!” said LaVigne-Butler.

The best part about SBE events, said Mkrtschjan, “are meeting my chef neighbors. Each time we run one of these, I have to depend on folks, some of whom I've never met, to show up with gallons of hot soup. And they do! Each time is a trust fall, and each time it works out. It makes me hopeful for civil society.”

Nicole Rossa

Nicole Rossa is program manager at Reaching Heights.

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Volume 11, Issue 2, Posted 11:15 AM, 01.21.2018