All Knoxvillians with an appetite for community improvement are invited to the 2nd Knoxville SOUP of 2016 set for April 7, 2016. The dinner is being held from 6 to 9 p.m. at Dara’s Garden, 2637 Maryville Pike, in South Knoxville.

SOUP is an exciting community-focused project sponsored by the South Knoxville Alliance (SKA) and is open to the public. It is a combination of a dinner and a showcase of proposals for community-based projects from which attendees will choose the winner.

The most recent Knoxville SOUP in January, raised money for the Dogwood Outdoor Coalition, which is a group of almost a dozen partners working to reclaim an outdoor space behind Dogwood Elementary School in order for the school to eventually be connected to the Urban Wilderness through the proposed Battlefield Loop. Ariel Allen from CAC, who presented on behalf of the Dogwood Outdoor Coalition, stated, “Winning the SOUP grant helped the Dogwood Outdoor Coalition purchase bridge materials and safety equipment for some of the 58 volunteers that participated with us for our MLK work day. It’s true worth, though, is immeasurable as it reflects support from a community that encourages outdoor recreation and education for its community members.”

So how does SOUP work? For a suggested donation of $5, attendees will receive a simple dinner of soup, salad, bread, dessert, and a vote. This dinner isn’t about the food, it’s about the opportunity to connect with the community, share ideas and bring about some sort of change or improvement.

Diners will hear short presentations from up to four different individuals or groups who have a project idea they are either implementing or need funds to implement. The projects might be a playground improvement, a neighborhood-landscaping project, an artistic project or some charitable endeavor. It might even be an idea about launching a new business with some social-responsibility focus. That’s the exciting part: The proposed projects could be anything – anything that someone has the inspiration to envision, to explain and for which they can win the votes of the audience.

After the presentations, dinner is served and guests have time to dine, digest and discuss the various projects. Then they cast a ballot for the project they like best. Toward the end of the evening, the ballots are counted and the winning project is awarded 100 percent of the funds raised at the door that evening. Winners are invited back to subsequent dinners to report on their progress and success.

The top vote getters are not the only winners however. At the November dinner, Tanna Nicely, principal of South Knoxville Elementary School, presented a proposal for SKE Scientists in the Library. While this project didn’t win the people’s choice, it received complete funding from a private individual BECAUSE they learned about the funding need through SOUP publicity. Mrs. Nicely was contacted by former SKE students Mr. and Mrs. Neal who wished to fund it because the project directly impacted students. They sent a check for $500 right before Christmas to a surprised Mrs. Nicely. SKE will be utilizing the money to buy inquiry-based science experiments for the students during the last week of January.

Also at the November dinner, Jackie Hardin presented a proposal for the Family Friendly Drum Circle at Ijams. This proposal also didn’t win the people’s choice BUT the Student Council of SKE is currently collecting money to surprise the drum circle with a drum purchase. Mrs. Nicely and some of the council attended the last SOUP and heard about their outstanding project. “It is an opportunity to give back to our fine community and show our students what it means to give back and pay it forward.”

For more information about Knoxville Soup, please visit or email