31 October 2015

They say that homemade soup is good for the soul. Arlene "Wiggy" Olson would agree, and as the project director for The Salvation Army's Soup's On! Project for the past 16 years, she has seen soup not just soothe the spirit but also change lives.


For more than a decade, The Salvation Army's culinary arts job training and placement program located on Conshohocken Avenue in Philadelphia has helped unemployed and underemployed individuals find meaningful and productive employment when they previously had no hope and no sense of self-worth. With minimal requirements to become a student in the program, Soup's On! provides willing individuals with the opportunity to learn and succeed in the workforce in a sustainable industry.


"Our program is unique in that it provides relevant job training in an industry that will never fail," said Wiggy Olson. "It's a practical option for our clients who are committed to getting back on their own two feet and finding gainful employment. It's amazing to see how they blossom and how their confidence rises as they realize their value and worth."


Over a three month period, students receive training in basic kitchen skills, cooking techniques and nutrition and gain hands-on experience in soup production and event catering. The Soup's On! Project offers 31 different varieties of soup including chicken corn chowder, roasted tomato, turkey chili, New England clam chowder and others. Each is made from the freshest local ingredients and sold back to the community in cafes and supermarkets. Revenue earned through soup sales and catering business sustains the program for future students and teaches participants the value of employment, management and customer service.


The Soup's On! Project operates out of a USDA certified facility, which allows students to earn their ServSafe certificate through the program, setting them on the proper path to work at qualified culinary establishments, supermarkets and institutions throughout the Philadelphia region. Since the program's inception, five hundred individuals have completed the program with a job retention rate of 85 percent.


"We want the unemployed in Philadelphia to know that you can work and you deserve to work!" said Wiggy. "And we at The Salvation Army are prepared to give you the tools you need to succeed."


The program is always looking for new students who are willing to learn and eager to gain long-term employment. To learn more about getting involved in the Soup's On! Project, please call Wiggy Olson at 215-452-0430.