Soup contest helps agency aid job seekers

See how this unique event combined a soup cook-off with a dinner and auction raising $32,000 for SE Works Career Center …

Heather Ficht of Worksystems won the coveted “Golden Ladle Award” for her “Wisconsin Delight” soup; it was, presented to her by five-time previous winner Anne Sweet.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
An organization that helps people find jobs has found a tasty formula for fundraising here in Southeast Portland. They call it “Recipes for Success”.

The Sixth Annual SE Works Soup Cook-Off and Auction used its tried-and- true recipe of mixing a soup cooking contest, banquet, and charity auction to help financially support their One-Stop Career Center.

The event, held at inner SE Portland’s Melody Ballroom, attracted 225 guests, who tasted unique soups cooked by 15 volunteer “chefs”.

Two chefs were awarded for their potages. The coveted Golden Ladle went to Heather Ficht for her “Wisconsin Delight” soup that garnered the greatest number of popular votes. Kerry DeBuse, owner of acclaimed Portland restaurant Genoa, and Sunset Magazine writer Susan Hauser, bestowed the Celebrities’ Choice award on Bryan Tremayne, for his “Roasted Vegetable Soup”.

As dinner was served, the organization’s staff, board, and volunteers were honored. “SE Works strengthens our community by providing employment and education programs,” explained executive director Heidi Soderberg. “Our clients say we do more than just help people get jobs. They say we help them improve their lives, and the lives of their families,” added board chair Mitch Cogen.

Clients William Parker, Tina Velasquez, and Nakeisha Bent gave moving testimonies about how SE Works went beyond getting them a job by also helping them improve their lives.

Guests bid generously during the lively auction run by Stan Ash. The event raised $32,000 to support the mission of SE Works: Strengthening the economic health and well-being of the diverse Southeast community by increasing access to employment, educational, and support services.

To learn more about the organization, see

“Recipes for Success” photo album

Three of the fifteen “soup chefs”, sampling their creations, and hoping to win the coveted “Golden Ladle Award”. They are Patty Park of Daverci Solutions, Inc., “Cream of Wild Salmon Pumpkin Soup”; Heather Ficht of Worksystems, “Wisconsin Delight”; and Amy Parkhurst, also of Worksystems, “Autumn Pumpkin Stew”.

Celebrities’ Choice Award winner at the event was Bryan Tremayne of Pacific Foods for his “Roasted Vegetable Soup”; the award was presented by Anne Sweet.

Bob Homer and Mary Phelps, ready to bid on some of the dozens of great items at the silent auction, which ranged from weekend getaways to event tickets.

Kerry DeBuse, owner of famous Portland restaurant Genoa, and Susan Hauser, a longtime freelance writer, sample and judge each soup entry, as they prepare to bestow the Celebrities’ Choice Award to one soup chef.

Mitch Cogen, SE Works board chair, & Heidi Soderberg, executive director, start the evening’s program.

Silver Ladle Sponsor Pam Olson, of Farmers Insurance, gets ready to pop her own prize balloon, to see what she won.

Soup chefs line up to receive their Medal of Appreciation.

Auctioneer extraordinaire Stan Ash has fun with the participants, as he gets top dollar for each item.

¬© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

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