There’s a lot of fantastic work being done under the radar in York.

And one of the aims of the first ever York Soup was to shine some light on some of the voluntary and charity work making a big difference to people’s lives across the city.

The first one took place at the Priority Street Centre on Thursday, June 25.

The next York Soup is on Tuesday, September 22, 2015 at the Guildhall.

It’s a brilliantly simple idea, borrowed from Detroit in the US. One hundred people pay a tenner a time for a meal of soup and bread.

But before the grub’s served they listen to four people with ideas of how to improve the city. The audience votes, and the winning idea gets the evening’s proceeds of around £1,000.

Everyone agreed that all four organisations were worth supporting. And here they are, including the winner on the night…

Acomb Community Garden

Jenny Cooke of Acomb Community Garden tells the York Soup gathering about the project
Jenny Cooke of Acomb Community Garden tells the York Soup gathering about the project
Jenny Cooke from Acomb Community Garden got the ball rolling.

The project aims to transform an overgrown weed patch behind Acomb Methodist Church into a haven where local people could meet and make friends.

Photograph: Acomb Community Garden
Photograph: Acomb Community Garden

Jenny told the York Soup crowd:

We have a fabulous space in the middle of Acomb.

It’s a few doors down from the library – but the only way to get to it is down some steps.

She wanted the York Soup grant to provide disabled access so everyone can get involved.

Royal Voluntary Service

Natasha Mort of York RVS
Natasha Mort of York RVS

“We work with isolated older people,” said Natasha Mort, of the Royal Voluntary Service. “They are people who have lost contact with family and friends.”

The RVS in York provides a library at home service – which doubles as a befriending service, she explained.

We take books to older people who are isolated, and we sit down and chat to them.

They have a waiting list, and want to fund training of more volunteers.

The RVS also has a plan to help older people use technology that would help connect them to friends and family, like the Skype and Facetime video links.

York ESOL

Richard Gresswell on the power of stories
Richard Gresswell on the power of stories

Richard Gresswell, from York English for Speakers of Other Languages, said:

Children who are not read to at home are significantly less likely to succeed at school.

He had a solution – after-school book clubs for young readers, free and easily accessible.

To reach more children, his Reading Partners scheme requires more trained volunteers.

The Island

Nigel Poulton (left) of The Island holds the winner's York Soup spoon. With him is the evening's host Greg McGee
Nigel Poulton (left) of The Island holds the winner’s York Soup spoon. With him is the evening’s host Greg McGee

Here’s our winner on the night. The Island is a charity which has been supporting vulnerable York children since 2007.

Nigel Poulton explained how they pair up the children with adult mentors who act as positive role models.

Explaining his vision… Nigel Poulton
Explaining his vision… Nigel Poulton
As well as running 46 mentoring relationships, The Island runs two evening clubs for children and has started mentoring at schools.

Nigel explained that the children have all faced adversity, from family breakdowns to disability. Having a grown-up who meets with them regularly, listens to them and provides some fun and friendship, can have a profound impact.

Children mentored by The Island have come out of their shell and grown in confidence, he told the York Soup gathering.

After winning £930 donated by the 93 attendees, he said he was thrilled to have won the inaugural York Soup.

“Since The Island was formed in 2007 we have helped hundreds of children,” he said. “Currently we have around 50 mentoring relationships.

“But we also have 50 children waiting to be mentored.”