The Associated Press
November 24, 2004, Wednesday, BC cycle
Man nicknamed ‘SoupMan’ offers food and hope to the homeless in Dallas
BYLINE: By BOBBY ROSS JR., Associated Press Writer
SECTION: Domestic News
LENGTH: 717 words
The theme from “Rocky” blares from a rickety white van that David Timothy calls his “SoupMobile.”
The music alerts hundreds of the homeless that it’s time to eat, and in a more subtle way, tells them that they – like Sylvester Stallone’s boxer character, Rocky Balboa – can overcome challenges.
“Rocky started with nothing and he rose to the top as world champion,” Timothy said as the hungry men, women and children emerged from their cardboard boxes under Interstate 45. “And these people here don’t have much. I just wanted to give them a little hope that they can rise to the top.”
On Thanksgiving Day, as he does every weekday, the 56-year-old Timothy will nourish those in need. Each will get a bowl of soup and a healthy portion of hope. But for the holiday meal, he’ll also serve up something special: turkey sandwiches bought in memory of his wife, Peggy, who died a month ago after a long battle with multiple sclerosis.
“She was always a cheerleader for the SoupMobile,” said Timothy, whose red “S” on his shirt gives his nickname as “SoupMan.” “She had a real heart for helping people and I feel she is with me every time I turn the key to start the SoupMobile.”
To the hundreds he assists, Timothy is more like Superman than Soupman.
“He does things for us that other people would not do, like bring us food, clothes, water, juice, cakes, dog food, blankets,” said Dorothy Thompson, 36.
Timothy, a Detroit native who spent more than 30 years in the insurance business, moved to Dallas three years ago to seek treatment for his wife.
He said he had contemplated opening a soup kitchen for a long time, partly because he knew what it was like to grow up poor and hungry, even though he’s never been homeless.
But when he realized nobody in Dallas wanted a soup kitchen in his back yard, Timothy and a friend came up with the idea of a mobile ministry, he said. In summer 2003, he bought his SoupMobile – a 1985 van with 265,000 miles on it – and started “taking the food to the homeless.”
SoupMan, a nondenominational Christian, forces no one to listen to a sermon but is quick to offer a prayer for anyone who asks.
“He don’t have to come out here, but he come out here because he got God in him,” said Milton Ivy, 49, who said he spent six years in the Army and has been homeless since his release from prison in July. “He’s a good spiritual man.”
Timothy provides more than 3,000 meals a month with the help of volunteers, donations from a few restaurants and grocery stores, and a willingness to work 60 to 70 hours a week.
Timothy supports himself with home-based insurance work at night and on weekends. Two or three nights a week he joins volunteers in manning a concession stand at Dallas Mavericks games to raise funds for the ministry.
Along with his work with the SoupMobile, Timothy serves as treasurer of the Feed My Sheep Coalition, a group of churches and ministries that aim to supply more than a meal and a blanket to street people.
Pastor Janet Cobb, the coalition’s executive director, said Timothy not only feeds the hungry but also finds toys for homeless children on their birthdays. For most of them, it’s the only gift they receive.
“If you don’t know where you’re going to sleep that night or eat that night, a birthday present is the last thing you expect,” Cobb said.
SoupMan greets each person with a smile and a “Buenos tardes, amigo!” or a “How you doing, man?”
When he spots a friend named “Elvis” in the serving line, he cranks up “Hound Dog” on the van’s loud speaker. Seconds later, he hugs a disheveled-looking woman whose face is swollen from having a tooth pulled.
“We want them to feel like somebody does care about them,” Timothy said, “because most people that see them, if they’re wandering the city, just totally ignore them. … Once you get to know them, you find out they’re regular human beings.”
The only day Timothy missed ladling up soup was when his wife died – as she slept in the early hours of Oct. 25, her 48th birthday. He went back to delivering meals the next day.
“It kind of helped me keep my sanity,” Timothy said of the SoupMobile. “I was able to keep really, really busy, which turned out to be a good thing.”
On the Net:
SoupMobile Inc.: http://www.soupmobile.org