The Rotary Club of the Bridgewaters is pleased to cite Rotary’s motto of “Service Above Self’ as it recognizes Peter Kelleher as its 2018 Citizen of the Year for Bridgewater.
Citing that his hometown had many economic challenges then as now – “many people are just a paycheck from being on the streets” – Peter feels he was “spoiled” – as his father was an undertaker and the family grew up in the relatively comfortable and secure surroundings of a funeral home.
According to Mr. Kelleher his dad was a “very giving man,” and was “always doing something for everyone,” often having others anonymously drop off envelopes filled with cash in the mailboxes of needy local citizens. This set an early life example of helping others in need.
Attending public schools, Peter Kelleher graduated from Bangor (Maine) High School in 1979. Soon he went to work at Great Northern Paper Co., where he “did everything” for 6 years. Then he founded Kelleher Applicators Co., which provided painting, roofing and siding services for 10 years. Subsequently he operated a “boiler-room” fund raising center for a business associate, and more recently established a” doggy day care” service in his back yard in Bridgewater, an endeavor he ceased a month ago due to the demands of Soupman activities. He had moved to the Bridgewaters with his life partner Esther eight years ago.
Peter’s life changed forever on May 23, 2016, when his 33-year old son Travis died from an overdose in Bangor. Thinking that had to do something to honor his offspring, Mr. Kelleher last year began by making 32 quarts of “hamburg soup” (tomato soup, chicken, vegetable and some beef ham burg) and taking it to feed homeless men and women in Brockton, Taunton, and then in Boston. The grateful recipients of Kelleher’s thoughtful and generous outreach began calling him “The Soupman” and the rest is history. Last winter, after giving a cold, homeless woman his gloves keep her frigid hands warmer, he realized the clothing was needed as well.
The Soupman put a photo on Facebook, asking for donations, and received a large number of responses including one from the owner of P & L Paintball, who has provided a great deal of support for his and fellow volunteers’ efforts
Now, in addition to providing free food, The Soupman distributes backpacks, clean underwear (especially socks) and foot ware to the homeless. Recently the Lucini transportation company donated a yellow school bus to The Soupman’s 501 c 3 charity. Job Lot has helped fill the bus up with $31,000 worth of donated boots, which will be distributed to the homeless over the next several months.
A new venture being developed within the charitable structure is “Support the Soupman Foods.” It has the goal to achieve profits that can benefit the organization’s services to the homeless in a way similar to what former actor Paul Newman has achieved with his salad dressing line. www.facebook.com/supportthesoupmancorp
Story and image courtesy of Bruce Marquis and Rotary of the Bridgewaters