It’s one way to get involved in your new neighborhood: go all in as an organizer of a brand new event. That’s what Maureen Smith and neighbor Deirdre Danahar did for Broadmeadow Neighborhood Association’s Soup’s On! The two stepped up to the plate to create this Saturday’s fundraiser being held at Broadmeadow United Methodist Church.
Smith and her husband, Jeff Amy, an AP reporter covering the Mississippi legislative beat, bought their house in The Top of Fondren just over a year ago. And there was no question where they would live. “We looked for two months for houses all over Jackson,” Smith says. “My husband drove past the house we purchased and immediately loved it & the (Broadmeadow) neighborhood.” That’s when Smith said the welcome wagon rolled in. “As we looked at the house, neighbors came over to introduce themselves. Our kids are at St. Richard (Catholic School) and we found out one of the moms who reached out as part of enrollment process, Cookie Lefler, lives here, too. We felt very welcomed.”
A neighborhood like Broadmeadow, Smith says, felt familiar. “I grew up in a place like this outside Atlanta where there was an active neighborhood association,” she tells us. “Everyone knew each other and there was a lot of interaction. Living here is a no brainer.”
It was in late March of 2012 that Smith, 40, and her family moved in to their home and the neighborhood association was hosting their annual meeting. “Immediately, we both wanted to be involved,” she says of their jumping in feet first. By April, Smith was an at-large board member and is secretary-elect for the next term.
As a board member, each person is charged with being responsible for an event. No one was available to chair their annual December fundraiser, Fab Food Fest, but Smith and Danahar agreed to take on a new project. “It’s a little crazy to chair an event you’ve never been to, so I thought that would be fun,” Smith explained. And why soup? The weather, she says, is usually cold and rainy this time of year. “When it’s cold, people make soup and chilli…warm comfort foods. We kept it simple and streamlined.” BNA will add biscuits and breads to the offerings, too, with neighbors like Carol Kerr stepping up to make the sought after sweet potato biscuits and Irish soda bread.
Planning and event like this has been challenging, but in a good way, for Smith. “I’ve met a lot of people (since I’ve lived here) but don’t know a lot in larger community,” she explains. “I’m naturally shy, so it’s difficult to say to someone ‘How about if you make 20 quarts of soup for me.’ I’m amazed at how people are willing to donate five hours in a weekend to their neighborhood.”
Smith, who by day is associate editor of a weekly paper, the Mississippi Catholic, says putting on Soup’s On! was ‘absolutely the right decision.’ “People who I am meeting continue to welcome me,” she says. And she loves hearing the stories. “When you call to talk about the event, people are telling stories about past events and stories of soups. I love that they all have a story. Someone’s tomato soup is their grandmother’s recipe and Dan’s (Autry) mushroom soup is famous in a way.” Then there is Chuck and Joe’s (Wise) duck gumbo (which is now sold out). “Let’s just say they’re local ducks. How many places can you go and find that?” For Smith, it’s more than soup. “It’s like buying someone’s little piece of history.”
Neighborhood awareness has been another goal of planning Soup’s On! “Some of the people I talk to have said they wish they had come to more Broadmeadow stuff,” she tells us. “Everyone showing up: every neighborhood association dreams of that.” On Saturday, Smith urges you to drop in, even if you aren’t buying. “Visit with your neighbors. I think that’s what we do here.”
Soup’s On! is co-chaired by Deirdre Danahar, who is also a new resident. BNA Secretary Terry Neyland spoke about Danahar who was out of town on business. “Deirdre is so dynamic and she stepped in. She’s extremely organized and loves her kitchen. She creates these unusual but fantastic soups like black bean pumpkin. She makes jams and jellies and cans. Deidre’s aÂ neat lady, busy in her career, but such a kitchen maven!” Smith says she’s thankful to have Danahar as co-chair. “She knows the neighborhood. She’s full of energy and we have been a good counterpoint to one another. There’s no way I could have done this without her.”