By: Litsa Pappas
WEST BRIDGEWATER, Mass. — A Bridgewater man is lending a helping hand to the homeless in a big way this winter.
Known as “Soup Man,” Peter Kelleher delivers warm clothes and food with his own bus full of donations.
What looks like a walk-in closet, full of jackets, shoes and scarves is actually Kelleher’s bus.
“It’s set up like a closet, everything’s sized,” said Kelleher. “This is full of brand new socks.”
It all started as a way for Kelleher to give back after losing his son Travis to the opioid epidemic back in 2016. He started by making soup for the homeless, which is where he got the nickname Soup Man.
“It was the homeless people that named him the Soup Man, they’d get all excited and say, ‘The Soup Man’s here the Soup Man’s here,’ so that’s where he got his title of the Soup Man,” said Amanda Souza, the Board Director at Support the Soup Man.
Travis, ultimately, is the fuel for Kelleher’s work.
“He has put me to work, I work for him; Travis is my passion, he’s my drive I work pretty much 24 hours a day,” said Kelleher.
Kelleher says he spends anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000 on brand new boots every week for the homeless. He also employs a team of people who help put together bags full of new toiletries for those in need.
But it doesn’t stop with the donations.
Kelleher recently created a portable shower trailer with three stalls that offers hot showers to those stuck in the cold.
“I knocked on doors and raised close to $50,000, Honda-motor company gave us the $5,000 generator,” said Kelleher.
“We did over 500 toiletry kits in three hours,” said Souza. “These kits will go into backpacks that Peter will distribute throughout the community with hats and gloves also.”
The efforts to keep the homeless fed and warm are a weekly battle, where the team serves hundreds of people in need across New England – whether it be with toiletries, clothing or hot lunches.
“It’s just grown tremendously and it’s all from the community,” said Souza.
Now, Kelleher hopes to get more grant money so he can find even more ways to help others.
“I have so much more I want to do, let me tell you this is just the beginning,” said Kelleher.
Kelleher’s non-profit is always looking for donations if you’d like to help.
Peter Kelleher has become a local “Souperman,” known for his donations of winter clothes and homemade soup.
After a tragedy struck his family, Massachusetts resident Peter Kelleher decided to make sure everyone has something warm to eat during the cold winter months. Three years ago, his 33-year-old son, Travis, passed away from a drug overdose while living on the street. Kelleher said that it stirred him to action.
“I had to do something,” he said. “And I came up with this brainstorm that I was going to make soup, and bring it out to the homeless. I had to do something. I was a wreck, I was a wreck, and I started making hot soup. I started bringing it into the homeless population.”
One day, a woman who Kelleher said “could have been (his) mother” approached him wearing no hat or gloves. Troubled by her plight, he gave her his own in a simple act that quickly went viral. Soon, a movement called “Support the Soupman” was born, and people started donating to Kelleher. One day, Al Roker joined Kelleher at work to see first-hand how much the warm clothes and hot, homemade soup could impact those in need. “It’s pretty simple, people helping people,” said Kelleher. “And it doesn’t take much to put a smile on someone’s face.” Now, he passes out soup and clothes from a set of school buses. “You don’t see people handing soup out of a school bus!” joked Al, as he helped Kelleher distribute cups of soup to those who approached.
Kelleher estimates that since he first started this project, he’s given out more than 3,000 cups of soup, and has donated tens of thousands of winter clothes. He even travels with a portable shower, allowing people without homes to enjoy a hot shower. Kelleher isn’t just popular in Massachusetts. He said that he’s had cities and towns in different states calling him, asking him to bring his buses to their cities and spread the message of how much a cup of soup can help someone.
“What does a hot cup of soup mean?” asked Al.
“Warmth and kindness and love,” Kelleher responded. “That’s what it means to me.”
Peter was selected as “Hero of the month” from Century 21 and the Boston Bruins Foundation. Peter was at the Bruins vs. LA Kings game on Tuesday, December 17 and appeared on the jumbotron during the 2nd intermission!
The story of Peter Kelleher and his “Support the Soupman” efforts caught the attention of the “Today” show. Al Roker came to Brockton on Friday to watch Kelleher in action, doling out soup to the homeless at Perkins Park.
BROCKTON – The story of “The Soupman” is going national, as he continues to ladle out warm food in downtown Brockton, with a side of compassion.
Famed weatherman and NBC television personality Al Roker came to Brockton on Friday to interview Bridgewater resident Peter Kelleher, better known as “The Soupman,” for an upcoming segment on the “Today” show about his effort to help the homeless, by feeding them cups hot soup, passing out warm clothes, and offering hot showers from a converted trailer. Kelleher said he hopes the national spotlight could help him garner more donations and volunteers for the “Support The Soupman” initiative.
“When I first started this, I didn’t expect any of this,” said Kelleher, who began his initiative by passing soup out to the homeless on Saturdays about two years ago in downtown Brockton. “It’s the beginning of bringing us to another level.”
Kelleher said that the “Today” show segment about his “Support the Soupman” efforts is tentatively expected to air on Wednesday morning. Kelleher said Roker’s crew first came to his house as he prepared a vat of hamburger soup, and then the two were joined by Mayor Moises Rodrigues in downtown Brockton outside Perkins Park, which is known to some as “Needle Park” due to a reputation for drug use by homeless people who gather there. Roker and Kelleher passed out hot cups of soup, and gave out boots to those in need.
“He has a heart,” Kelleher said about Roker. “He was passing stuff out from the back of the bus. It just touched me that this is where it has come.”
Kelleher, 59, said he started his “Support the Soupman” initiative as a result of the death of his son, Travis Kelleher, who was 32 years old when he suffered a fatal opioid overdose as a homeless person living in Bangor. Since then, Kelleher has been able to enlist the support of volunteers and corporate donors, such as Ocean State Job Lot, providing time and donations to accomplish his “simple” mission of “people helping people.”
Earlier this year, Kelleher unveiled the portable shower unit, which he has stationed frequently outside of The Haven community day center for the homeless. The Bridgewater man said his ultimate goal is to get other shower units for all major cities in New England. Kelleher said he’s struggling to set up his portable shower in Boston, after seeking approval from the mayor’s office for specific locations.
“People helping people is pretty simple. That’s where I’m at with this,” Kelleher said. “I just want to help. It’s not acceptable for anybody to have to sleep out in the cold. That’s somebody’s kids. It’s somebody’s child. It’s somebody’s mother. It’s somebody’s father. It’s not fair.”
Kelleher said he’s also establishing a coffee and soup line of products that he wants people to be able to buy in stores in order to fund the “Soupman” effort in the future. That way, Kelleher said, he could dedicate more time to helping the poor on streets, instead of always searching for donations.
“I have to find a way to fund this,” said Kelleher, who is often joined by his dog Koji. “Hopefully, this (appearance on the ‘Today’ show) will pull in some people that that can afford to help.. … This isn’t about Peter Kelleher, in any way shape or form. This is about people helping people.”