PITCHING a business or charity idea to a bunch of likeminded people and leaving with a belly full of homemade soup and potentially £200 in their hand is the latest way people in Southend are helping their community.

Southend Soup sees residents, community groups and charities pile into a different venue each month. A fiver will buy you a home-cooked meal and a vote.

After listening to the pitches, the idea with the most votes wins and takes home the money to help them kickstart their plans.

Originally started in Detroit, Chicago, four years ago the creative venture has made its way to the shores of Southend thanks to Sherry Fuller.

Sherry, 41, a public health worker from Westcliff began Southend Soup after hearing how the Detroit community was helping local artists and creatives with funding.

She said: “We started in 2013 and people come together and pay a small amount of money for soup and a roll and hear from people who would like funding for their ideas and projects. They then vote and the money goes to the idea with the most votes.

“When I heard about it I thought that sounds simple and sounds like something we can do.

“One of the key points about Southend Soup – to demonstrate how easy it can be for anyone to do something small to make a difference. I hope to inspire people to get active. Do things for themselves rather than wait for someone else to do so.”

Previous winners include night shelters and foodbanks, but anybody is free to apply.

Sherry said: “We probably get between 30 and 50 people at the Soup meetings and we’ve had some really diverse ideas.

“The first was a local group that had a community allotment and wanted money for a new shed, we’ve since given money to a foodbank for their Christmas party for children, to a mental health group to allow people to access therapies.

“We’ve had all sorts coming forward, including the churches who run the night shelters.”

The idea with the most votes takes home the money, but the Soup aims to provide opportunity for everyone.

Kamil Pachalko from Southend in Transition Community Allotment said: “Our idea was to set up a community allotment to enjoy growing food as a group of people sharing tasks, learning and yields. I knowSherry from other community projects and when we were deciding to go ahead or not with our project we thought it would be good to put it out to testing in the forum provided by her.

“The funds, if we were successful, would also helps us purchase materials for the plot.

“We presented at the first Southend Soup and got great feedback from people who voted for us. This gave momentum to our project and we spent the funds on fixing up the allotment shed and that year’s plot fees. We continue to stay in touch with the Southend Soup crowd and had visitors to our plot.”

The Soup is open to any individuals, creatives or groups who are in need of funding.

Sherry said: “In Detroit it was started up to fund artists who needed help. It can be a local artist or a young person wanting to start up their own business.

“It’s only small, so whoever wins they normally get between £150 and £200.

“We are talking small amounts, but it can make a huge difference to some people.

“Even if you don’t win, it’s still a great opportunity to talk to people there who are part of the community to raise an awareness and people there are very likeminded and may be able to get involved in some way.

“It’s about creativity and bringing likeminded people together.

“We have all sorts of ventures that people can get involved in just by coming to Soup.”

Two chefs prepare the soup for the evening, but anyone walking through the door is encouraged to help.

Sherry said: “We try to encourage people to mingle and get involved to become part of the whole experience, we’ve got our in house band now too, after a couple of guys came with their guitars and they play and sometimes we have someone on the bongos.

“We tell people to bring whatever they like with them, from colouring for the kids, to music, to food. People sell crafts – it’s supposed to be a creative space.

“This year the more people that come the better, if we can get bigger it would be superb.”

To find out more visit, Southend Soup on Facebook or email sherryfuller@ hotmail.co.uk