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Helping the homeless local to regional

When Peter Kelleher’s 33-year-old son Travis passed away in 2016 after battling addiction and homelessness, Kelleher knew he wanted to help those battling the same fight Travis did. What started off as making hot soup and delivering it to the homeless in Brockton, Massachusetts, has now grown to a regional effort aimed at not just delivering soup but also backpacks, gloves, hats, health supplies, blankets, and more to the homeless across the region.

Drawing by Thom Maguire

With a focus across New England, Support the Soupman launched initially in the greater Brockton, Massachusetts area and is growing in Massachusetts into Boston and Plymouth and will soon be expanding into Manchester, New Hampshire and Bangor, Maine.

In an article printed in a local newspaper, “The Brockton Enterprise,” Kelleher mentioned that if people wanted to help, they could do something simple, like donate pairs of gloves and socks that he would pass out on his weekend trips. He was hoping to get 100 pairs – but instead received more than 400.

“If Travis were here, he would be proud,” Kelleher said. “I know he would help and we would be having fun. I am honored to be doing this in my son’s memory.”
“No one should have to go through losing a son,” says Kelleher. Instead of giving up hope after the death of his son, he continues to help those who are in similar positions that his son was in. Not with money, but with encouragement, support, warmth and soup.

Each Saturday for the last few years, in the winter months, Kelleher goes to Brockton to pass out homemade soup to the homeless.

’I’m the soup man,” Kelleher joked.

His service dog Koji goes first, jumping out of the truck, he said, and many people smile when they recognize the “Soup Man” and his dog, knowing that they are about to get a warm meal. Kelleher opens the bed of the truck, which becomes a serving station, and doles out the gallons of soup into dozens of cups.

“I only give them what they need,” Kelleher said. “Sometimes I run out of items and it is so sad.” “It’s not just children out there,” Kelleher said. “A lot of these people are somebody’s mother and father.”

Kelleher recently asked local communities for help. “I need donations,” Kelleher said. “I don’t want money, gift cards or food. I need mittens, gloves, scarves or hats. Anything to keep these people warm.”

“Everyone has a story,” Kelleher said. Sometimes he recalls a story of his own. “My son, Travis, was so handsome,” Kelleher said. “We both loved cooking.”

But Travis had another side of his story too. “He was off and on, taking drugs. His addiction lasted years” Kelleher said. “It got him into trouble too. He was homeless and in and out of jail.”

Kelleher said he tried helping Travis. “We wouldn’t give him money because we didn’t want him to spend it on drugs,” Kelleher said. “But we would give him food. We all tried helping him, but he was chasing a demon.”

“Drug addiction is a terrible condition,” Kelleher said. “Everybody knows someone who has gone through it. Everyone has a story.” And although he lost his son, he hasn’t lost hope.

“The Soup Man” continues every Saturday to bring soup, gloves and encouragement to the homeless. “Whether it is my son or strangers, they need help,” Kelleher said. “I just want to help them.”

But despite how busy he has become, the Soup Man vows to continue his mission. “I can tell you one thing: no matter what, I will be there every Saturday,” Kelleher said. “Not even 10 feet of snow could keep me away from doing this. There should be a ‘Soup Man’ in every city.”

To follow Kelleher and his journey, you can visit his “Support the Soupman” Facebook page, or visit the supportthesoupman.org website.

Source: enterprisenews.com; supportthesoupman.org

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