Propeller Community Partner Feature: Stone Soup

At Propeller, serving our local communities has been a focus since our founding. Community is core to our culture. We’re committed to giving back to the communities we live and work in with time, strategic thinking, and support for nonprofit partners. Through our Uplift program, we leverage our people's business acumen and problem-solving skills to support nonprofit organizations.

As we approach the end of the year, a time that many of us focus on giving, we reached out to a few of our Uplift partners to learn more about their mission, the work they’re doing, and what seasonal giving means to them. Today, we’re featuring a conversation with Craig Gerard, the Director of Development at Stone Soup in Portland, OR.

Q: Thank you for taking the time to talk with us! Can you tell us about the mission of Stone Soup PDX and your role within the organization?

Stone Soup’s mission is to empower people experiencing barriers to employment to achieve self-reliance through training for careers in the food service industry. We are a nonprofit culinary training program, providing workforce development and career connections to people who are at risk of homelessness. In plain speak: we help people get jobs. 

I am the co-founder of the organization along with my wife Ronit. We both had a strong passion for helping people and for food and wanted to combine those two loves to create a lasting legacy for our children and our community. 

The housing crisis in Portland is one of the most visible and heartbreaking plagues that is changing this city that we all love. And what we've come to learn is that housing insecurity doesn't always look and feel like people living in tents. There are SO MANY more people who are housing insecure that we don't see. But we know that if we can help give people a solid path out of poverty with job training and skills development, it frees up more resources for those who are the most vulnerable. So, to that end, we really are having a strong impact.

Q: Where can the community see your team’s work in action? 

Stone Soup is located in Old Town, at the corner of NW Everett and Broadway. We sit right on the border of Old Town and the Pearl and like to think of ourselves as bridge-builders connecting the two communities. 

In the Before Times, we were a public-facing lunch counter, serving soups, salads, and sandwiches. However, we've since switched to doing contract meals for shelters and residential facilities. This shift has given us a more predictable revenue stream and has proven to be a more stable platform for us to train our participants. Because of these contract meals, our dining room is not open to the public. However, you can order frozen soups to go from our website, Grubhub, or Uber Eats. We also have once-a-month pop-up meals that have both dine-in and takeaway options. The next one is on December 2, 2022. Lastly, we have a retail soup line that people can order via our website. It is a Soup Subscription where customers get a different soup every week, orders are made monthly, and a recurring subscription is available. You can also find our soups available at Zupan's Markets. 

  

Q: We’d love to hear about a program you’re particularly proud of.

One of our biggest accomplishments of 2022 is the creation of our Trauma Informed Management series. It is a training program for our Job Placement Partners, the restaurants or food businesses that hire our graduates. Each partner is required to take our Trauma Informed Management video series (only 30 minutes total), which introduces them to working with employees who have been through trauma. 

The goal of this program is to help our partners make more money. It works like this: hiring and training are expensive. Businesses that are constantly losing employees because managers are not considering past traumas of their employees are spending too much on hiring and training. And let's face it, we are all carrying a bit of trauma with us. Our program teaches managers to come at employee issues from a place of curiosity. If they can see higher employee retention among all their employees (not just our participants), they will spend less and keep more. 

Q: We know many nonprofits are supported by individual donors. Can you tell us the impact seasonal giving has on Stone Soup? 

November and December are our biggest fundraising efforts of the year. We are anticipating that we will raise over $60,000 from individual donors by the end of the year. That essentially covers two staff members in our program department, a full-time and part-time employee whose entire job is to support our program participants in the pursuit of their careers. 

Q: Anything else you think our readers should know?

We're available to cater! Our catering page shares different options. We can do everything from office lunches to four-course dinners for special events. Aside from being delicious, all proceeds from our catering directly support our culinary training program.

About Uplift

Serving our local communities has been a focus since our founding. This commitment to community and corporate responsibility reflects the shared values of our employees. Through our Uplift program, our people can do good work in their communities and make a lasting impact by leveraging their business acumen and problem-solving skills to support nonprofit partners. We uplift organizations through pro bono strategy, professional development, and direct service. 

We’re always seeking ways to engage with our local communities. Whether you need help solving a complex problem with pro bono project support, seek volunteers for a project or event, or would benefit from brief mentorship — the Uplift team is devoted to supporting our communities. Reach out to the Uplift team to learn more.