Church Community Services
Betsy Ayrea Delfine, Soup of Success Director
Church Community Service’s Soup of Success (SOS) is an intensive 20 week program that provides job and life skills training to women in Elkhart County, Indiana. The class of twelve women comes to SOS every day, Monday through Friday, from 8:45 to 1:15. Half of that time is spent in a combination of individual therapy, group therapy, career counseling, resume building, and classes focused on everything from basic work skills to financial management.
The other half of each day is devoted to working in SOS’s social enterprise business. The women work with SOS staff and volunteers to make and sell a wide range of products, including soups, cookies, dips, candles, shower melts, upcycled mittens, and decorative fabric trees. Those products are sold at some 250 small stores all over the country.
Through this business the women learn everything from quality control to health department codes, marketing and merchandising, shipping, and customer service. Money from the sale of their products goes to pay each woman in the program an hourly training wage along with covering the purchase of ingredients and raw materials.
The women in the program get referred to Soup of Success by social service agencies throughout Elkhart County. Most are victims of domestic violence, others were homeless or incarcerated before coming to SOS, and still others are working with the Department of Child Services to get custody of their children. SOS’s only requirements are that they be at least 21, are clean and sober for six months before starting the program, and are mentally ready to work on themselves.
SOS also provides a graduate follow-up program for the women. They have Facebook groups, reunion nights, and an annual picnic to help the women from each class stay connected and support one another. The women are also welcome to come in at any time to use the computer lab and meet with staff or their therapist.
COVID presented an interesting set of challenges. At the time, Soup of Success was only selling their products in about 30 stores. Most of their sales took place through church bazaars, and when those got shut down they had to switch gears and focus on online sales. They quickly expanded to 250 stores, but that caused a new set of problems – capacity. The sudden increase in demand made it almost impossible to keep up with production, and they had to stop taking orders for three crucial weeks during the Christmas season. So one of their big challenges for 2021 is building capacity and planning for how to meet the Christmas rush.
The program has seen a lot of successes since opening their doors in 1997. In addition to the many women who have gained employment, one graduate started a cleaning business and now has twelve employees of her own. Another went from feeling all but invisible to speaking to an audience of more than 500 people. Many of the women have also gone on to further their education, including GEDs, college, and even Master’s degrees. And the staff long ago lost count of the number of light bulb moments they’ve encountered, moments where the women suddenly realize their true potential. That’s part of what makes Soup of Success so incredible.
To learn more, click here – https://soupofsuccess.com/