SoupMobile Church Food Pantry Gets a Home
Missions-minded architects and contractors help design and build a new worship space and food pantry for the homeless in Dallas.
by Carol Badaracco Padgett, Church.Design
In 2003, David Timothy decided to drive a van around the streets of Dallas and serve soup to the homeless. Like most brilliant ideas, his mobile soup kitchen was simple but effective.
“In our first year we served 5,000 meals out of our mobile van,” he says. “At the time, we thought 5,000 meals was a lot. Now we serve more than 250,000 meals per year, and over the years we've provided more than 4 million meals to the homeless and needy children living in Dallas, Texas.”
Eighteen years since the church’s inception, David Timothy is known as Pastor David Timothy and the soup van ministry is called SoupMobile Church, his fleet of vans now numbering six.
“We are still ‘mobile,'" Timothy notes, "but over the years we've expanded our operation to include a building to house, store, and prepare food for distribution. Our newest SoupMobile Food Pantry was designed by GFF,” a multi-disciplinary design firm based in Dallas that includes architects, interior designers, landscape architects, and planners.
The Design Team + General Contractor
Architecture, Interior Design, and Landscape Architecture – GFF | Civil Engineering – RLG Consulting Engineers | Structural Engineering – RLG Consulting Engineers | MEP Engineer – Summit Consultants Inc. | GC/Construction – ACS Commercial
The food pantry operation is housed in an annex building, designed by GFF and completed in December 2020, that sits adjacent to the SoupMobile Church—an existing tiny chapel with a simple steeple where Sunday services are held and live streamed.
GFF designed two buildings on the site, each serving a different function and connected by an outdoor canopy.
In the church on Sundays, pre-COVID pandemic, homeless attendees would gather for services. “People walked away with a boxed lunch afterward,” says GFF Church Works Studio Director and Associate Principal Jacquelyn Block, AIA, LEED AP, who served as project manager for the SoupMobile Annex.
Of the annex building and food pantry’s design objectives, Block says Timothy was instrumental in crafting the feel of the space. “The pastor said, ‘I don’t want this to feel like a commercial building or a big box, but like home instead.’” GFF designed two buildings on the site, each serving a different function and connected by an outdoor canopy. The two buildings have gabled roofs and a building form and scale like those found in residential.
In keeping with Timothy's directive, Block says GFF worked alongside general contractor ACS Commercial to create the annex structure that houses coolers and freezers for SoupMobile Church’s food distribution and shopping services. Block is quick to note that the SoupMobile project’s success is due to a team of collaborators and contributors, people who have gone above and beyond in creating the church’s spaces for ministry.
Outdoor gathering space, too, is an important part of the flexible design.
“In between the two buildings, there’s an outdoor canopy area where they can have events outside,” Block describes, like twist dance competitions, picnics, and bar-b-ques to provide fellowship for a community that might not otherwise have an opportunity to experience these joys.
The outdoor space recently played an important role in helping the homeless during the February 2021 snow storm in Texas.
In hindsight, Block says the incorporation of the outdoor space, designed in collaboration with GFF’s landscape studio, was nothing short of a godsend. “Nobody could’ve anticipated COVID, and it’s a reminder of the importance of creating flexible church spaces that can be adapted to serve the community as needed.”
The outdoor space recently played an important role in helping the homeless during the February 2021 snow storm in Texas. As Timothy describes, the canopy area became a spot to safely distribute blankets to the homeless in an urgent operation the church dubbed Code Blue.
“I was trying to decide how many blankets to ask for,” he says. “I thought 5,000 was a nice round number (and a big number), but then thought that with the Lord leading the blanket drive we could get more, so I upped the number to 10,000 and crossed my fingers. Ah, me of little faith! As the Bible says, God is able to do abundantly more than we could ask or even think to ask. We had 15,000 donated [the following] Saturday alone, with more blankets coming in every day. I estimate we will end up with more than 20,000.”
He adds, “The bottom line is that God can and does open doors we never thought could be opened.”
What initiatives are up next for SoupMobile Church? Working in conjunction with the new SoupMobile Food Pantry, Timothy says, “We will do more of what we do best, which is to feed the homeless and needy children. But, of course, the food is only the doorway into their hearts, so we can give them a healthy dose of love, caring, and compassion.”
Pastor Timothy closes by saying, “He is the one who opens all doors. He is the one who makes all things happen. He is the one who multiplies the loaves and the fishes. Can you say, ’20,000 blankets instead of just 10k'?”
More Contributors & Collaborators
DeFord/BMC Lumber - donated framing lumber, siding, trusses, and many other building components
Charley's Concrete - donated all concrete material
Woodmont Cabinetry - donated all cabinets
Shearer Supply - donated HVAC equipment
Encore Wire - donated all electrical wire
Hill & Wilkinson - donated all fabricated steel fencing & canopy frame
Intex Electrical - donated full electrical subcontract
TXO Restoration - performed roofing and guttering at approximately 1/2 normal value
Mechanical Partners - donated full plumbing subcontract plus performed HVAC subcontract at approximately 1/2 value
Landscape Lighting Supply - donated exterior landscape lighting fixtures and controls
Daico Supply - donated all sheetrock and many other building components
NTX Drywall - donated all sheetrock and insulation installation
Glass Tech - donated all windows and glass door entries
[Editor's note: Originally published in February 2021.]