The Plymouth Soup Run is a community and faith driven service that provides free food and hot drinks to the homeless, hungry, and venerable people 365 days a year.

It is coordinated by Hilary Knight MBE and has been going for 20 years. We are incredibly proud to be working alongside her and what she stands for. Hilary has expressed her gratitude to Fat Face Plymouth for our continued support.

John Stephens runs the Methodist Soup Run on a Saturday and is passionate about working with and helping the community. Not only does he organise the Saturday Soup Run, John also volunteers at the discovery café – the church café for vulnerable people. He pays for a lot of the food out of his own pocket and relies heavily on the generosity of others. John is incredibly thankful of Fat Face Plymouth’s support. In his own words ‘I feel blessed to have you on board’. It’s very rare to meet someone like John who has the passion to help others and we feel inspired to work alongside him and support his goal to help those in need.

Why did we get involved?

Kirsty, Fat Face Plymouth Store Manager, was organising a venue for an upcoming area meeting and asked a pastor at the church, as they were local to us,  if we could use it for the conference. They agreed, but we ended up not using the church as our managers were participating in the 2021 Beach Clean. In way of gratitude to them, we offered to take part in his upcoming Soup Run- and so began our journey…

Our initial experience.

When we arrived, John was bringing in food from his car and volunteers were preparing bags of cold food, hot food and hot drinks like coffee and hot chocolate for the venerable people of Plymouth and delegated jobs for us.

 Bags of snack foods alongside the hot meals and drinks were sorted and distributed. Basic needs of clothing and toiletries were provided in bags for people to pick what they wanted. We were then shown the routine of stops around the city of Plymouth following John’s lead.

We weren’t initially sure what to expect, but found the experience humbling and rewarding. We were amazed how, with very little assistance, John has managed to help so many people who have come to reply on his kindness.

Via the FatFace Foundation, we have recently donated £2,000 to help fund the Soup Run for a whole year!

What we wanted to make even better.

Although the Soup Run offered basic utilities for the vulnerable people, we wanted to expand upon and organise the range of products available to people. Such as Clothing/Sanitary items/Cosmetics/Blankets and also pet welfare items. Pets are a much-needed source of companionship for the venerable so we wanted to recognise their needs as well.

Our plan.

We felt that we could use our company connections to accumulate more products for the Soup Run. We did this with collection boxes, word of mouth through talking to our amazing regular customers. Crew members were allocated the responsibility of distributing sacks to around 30 businesses within Drake Circus with a list of needs attached.

Preparation and distribution.

A lot of preparation goes into the Soup Run each month. We receive the much needed donations from customers, staff, and local businesses. These products are then sorted into bags for men and women, then into size ranges, we will add accessories to each bag as well, like socks, hats ect.

Once sorted the donations are walked over to Plymouth Methodist Church and distributed amongst the volunteers and their vehicles. We then make several stops around the city to distribute food/drink/toiletries and now clothing.

I look at our store as a family and personally feel proud of our team for coming together and making the vision happen. I could not have done this on my own.

People perceptions of the homeless and vulnerable can be that they’re rude and ungrateful, we have all found them to be nothing but humble and grateful.

Just knowing that we have helped the mix bag of people that we’ve met; from victims of domestic abuse to mental health and addiction issues; refugees; and lost souls also makes me feel so proud.

We have now been supporting the Soup Run for one whole year and have already started to expand our quest for donations in other ways also. I have personally trialled a box donation scheme. A simple idea of leaving a box outside your home and asking for support from neighbours in my street. This was a huge success and supported the Soup Run with toiletries and food for the Food Bank.

In these tough months ahead for everyone, we feel the importance of community spirit and once again feel proud we can pull together to Make It Happen.

Claire Higginbotham

Assistant Manager, FatFace Plymouth