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An appetite for Soup and Game Night

Restaurant’s fundraisers prove to be popular with community

Recorder/Paul Franz
The Soup and Game Nights held once a month on Mondays at the Hope and Olive Restaurant in Greenfield have proven to be a popular fundraising effort.

Recorder/Paul Franz The Soup and Game Nights held once a month on Mondays at the Hope and Olive Restaurant in Greenfield have proven to be a popular fundraising effort.

GREENFIELD — Homemade soup and board games have been raising money for local nonprofits, social service agencies and art organizations the first Monday of each month at Hope and Olive since it opened in September 2007, and co-owner of the restaurant Jim Zaccara says he doesn’t see an end in sight.

“This started at our restaurant Bottle of Bread in Shelburne Falls,” said Zaccara. “The first fundraiser we ever did was a pig roast to raise money for a local woman who wanted to go to Nicaragua to volunteer. The fundraiser was Maggie’s idea.”

Zaccara, who owns Hope and Olive with his sister Maggie Zaccara and Evelyn Wulfkuhle, started Free Soup and Game Night the first Monday after they opened the restaurant on the corner of Hope and Olive streets in Greenfield.

“We were closed every Monday, so we decided to continue having fundraisers for local groups one Monday a month,” he said.

Soup and Game Night is held the first Monday of every month, except in July and August, because Zaccara said no one shows up around the Fourth of July and most people are away or on vacation in August.

“We want everyone to be successful and raise a lot of money, so we want to make sure we do it right,” said Zaccara.

He said most organizations have raised between $1,500 and $2,500 by drawing people out to eat soup and bread and play games.

Zaccara said Hope and Olive typically has between eight and 10 volunteers working each Free Soup and Game Night, and the benefiting organization has about the same number of volunteers.

“We work the kitchen and bar, and the organization’s volunteers set up and clean up,” said Zaccara.

He said the food is put out in buffet style, so people serve themselves.

Zaccara said people donate money to the featured organization either with a direct donation or by buying baked goods, raffle tickets, or putting money in a donation jar set out that night.

Zaccara said his volunteer bartenders donate their tips.

“We look for organizations, agencies or art groups that have lost funding or are underfunded,” said Zaccara. “Almost all of them are located in Franklin County. The few that haven’t been located here provided services to Franklin County residents. Those are usually just over the county’s border.”

“The ones we choose can use extra cash,” said Zaccara. “We’re just glad we can help in some way.”

Zaccara said most Free Soup and Game nights, which begin at 5 and are supposed to end at 7:30 p.m., but sometimes go on until 8, end up standing room only.

“We usually have about 150 people attend,” he said.

Zaccara said part of the reason he, his sister, and the other owners of the former Bottle of Bread and Hope and Olive decided to start a monthly fundraiser was because of the kindness they received when Bottle of Bread was destroyed in a fire in 2005.

“People went out and raised money for us so that we could start over,” said Zaccara.

He said Free Soup and Game Night is so popular that organizations are being scheduled a year out. He said Hope and Olive is still accepting applications for 2014, though.

“We have enough organizations to fill all 10 months from September 2013 through June 2014, but we want to have more to choose from,” he said. “Organizations that don’t make next year’s list will be put on a waiting list.”

He said there have been very few repeats over the years, because there are plenty of worthy organizations to choose from each year.

Zaccara said it takes about 12 to 15 gallons of soup to feed everyone on Soup and Game Night.

Some past contributors include The Wagon Wheel in Gill, People’s Pint in Greenfield, The Rendezvous in Turners Falls, Gill Tavern in Gill, the former Siren Cafe in Greenfield, El Jardin Bakery in Deerfield, Bread Euphoria in Haydenville, and Green Fields Market in Greenfield.

“People love Free Soup and Game Night,” said Zaccara. “They eat, drink, play Scrabble or cards or some board game, and they know they’re helping someone while they’re having fun.”

Zaccara said some who attend are “joiners,” who ask others if they can play a game with them, while others bring the same teams month after month and sit at the same tables and play Scrabble for three hours.

“We have seen some great stories to tell, too,” said Zaccara. “One couple had their first date here, and now they are getting married.”

Richard Wilson of Turners Falls does maintenance and works as a handyman for Hope and Olive.

He said he and his granddaughters volunteer at almost every Free Soup and Game Night.

“Jim and Maggie show a lot of love and compassion for people and that makes others want to do the same,” said Wilson. “I love being here to help.”

Wilson said his granddaughters, Julianna and Jayden Chapin, already understand about giving back to community at the young ages of 13 and 11, because of Hope and Olive’s efforts.

“My 11-year-old granddaughter loves to make and donate turkey noodle soup for some of the nights,” he said.

Zaccara said for an organization to be considered, it has to show that it has a plan for its fundraiser.

“It’s best if someone from the organization has been to a Free Soup and Game Night,” said Zaccara. “That way, they know what it takes to put on a successful one.”

Zaccara said it’s not just about raising money, but also about public relations for the organization and raising awareness.

“This draws a lot of attention to what an organization does, who it is helping, and why it is an important part of the community,” said Zaccara.

Tonight’s Free Soup and Game, which begins at 5 p.m., will benefit Camp Keewanee, which plans to use the money it raises to make repairs to its buildings, and the June 3 fundraiser will benefit Seeds of Solidarity farm, which plans to use the money it raises for programs and workshops it offers throughout the year.

For more information on Free Soup and Game Night, visit: www.hopeandolive.com.

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