Retired carpenter Bill Pond spends his Sundays cooking, starting his famous chicken noodle soup (textured and fresh with a spicy kick) around 10 a.m., with veggies he grew in his garden. While the soup slow cooks, he prepares for a hot dog meal that will feed up to 50 people, maybe more.
Around dinner time, he’ll pack the hot dogs and 32 quarts of chicken soup into his green truck, leave his home in Burien and head over to Capitol Hill. Then, he’ll pull over to the side of the road across the street from Dick’s Drive-In, put out some orange hazard cones and serve the food to the people lined against the construction fence waiting for him.
Pond has faithfully served the homeless, the hungry and the curious from the same place every Sunday at 6 PM for the last four years. Volunteers meet him on the corner and help serve the food and hand out to-go bags of flavored vitamin water, oranges and chips.
He even sets up the food on a printed picnic tablecloth, making it feel like more of a cookout than handout.
“Everything is handmade,” said Pond. “Even though they’re homeless, they deserve good food.”
The people Pond feeds vary in age, background and situation. Sometimes the serving line goes down the block, and they are welcome to come back for seconds if they stand at the end of the line.
“It used to be just for the homeless,” said Pond. “Now it’s changed to anyone who is hungry.”
Pond says he started serving on Capitol Hill after an encounter with a panhandler at Dick’s. When the person asked him for spare change, Pond offered a burger instead. He ended up spending $20, all the cash he had on him, feeding the hungry people there.
The interaction inspired Pond to start serving people food he could make himself. He started at Pike Place Market, but was turned off by the druggies and drunks he said he found in his lines. In the beginning, the cops asked him what he was up to and he responded, “I’m just serving my friends.” After the inspiration at Dick’s, he started serving exclusively on the Hill. He started out handing out sandwiches, but now he serves homemade soup, chili or stew.
After the Seattle Times profiled him in 2008, a few volunteers joined him in his efforts, bringing sandwiches, chips and water bottles to hand out along with a cup of soup and a hot dog.
Capitol Hill resident Laura Delvillar and her husband started helping Pond two years ago.
“My husband and I noticed people struggling in our neighborhood and we wanted a more immediate way to help,” said Delvillar. “I wanted to make sure that my neighbors were getting the help they need.”
Another local, Brad Fisher, was making pastries and desserts for a living when he read the Times article and started bringing baked goods to hand out.
“I was inspired by the idea of this one guy trying to get out there and make a difference,” said Fisher. “I wanted to see the immediacy of what we could do to help the community.”
Pond is not an established non-profit, his work is not tax deductible and the money he spends on food comes directly from his own pocket and those of his volunteers. Times are tough, and Pond collects aluminum cans to supplement his costs. If people want to help, Pond asks that they donate money, not food. “I like to know where it’s coming from and what I’m feeding them,” said Pond.
You can reach Pond at (206) 244-8521 if you want to get involved.
He used to serve on Wednesday and Sunday nights, but found himself throwing away food on Wednesdays as that day didn’t seem as popular. However, Pond and his volunteers have noticed an increased need from the neighborhood and would like to resume Wednesday night servings but lack funds to do it. Recent light rail construction on Broadway has jeopardized his normal spot, and Pond isn’t sure where he’ll set up if he has to move.
Even though times are tough, Pond says he feels compelled by a higher power to serve others as long as he can.
“God made me do it. I’m not a very religious person, God never spoke to me before. I’m pretty old school,” said Pond. “But if he’s going to come to me, I guess I’d better do it.”