Meet Your Neighbor: Donna Henry

Ward 7 Resident, Restaurateur and Author

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Coming to Ward 7
Henry is a native of Jamaica. While she grew up in New York’s Westchester County, her relatives lived on the south coast of Jamaica, in the parish of St. Elizabeth. It was a place where the children frolicked in a huge backyard. Under sapphire blue skies, the men played endless games of dominoes while the women cooked over an open fire. As a child there, Henry learned how to create a tasty, hearty and healthy soup by incorporating ingredients like thyme and scotch bonnet pepper.

Henry arrived in the District 20 years ago, intent on completing a graduate degree. Attending American University, she earned a master’s in public communication and fell in love with Ward 7. “I chose to live in Ward 7 because it offered the feeling of suburban living in an urban environment,” she says. “There are spacious single-family homes with lawns and decks only steps away from Congress and minutes away from downtown. It seemed like the best of both worlds.”

“Breakfast in Bed,” a squash and carrot soup. Photo: Kaylie Nguyen

A resident of the Penn Branch/Fort Dupont community since 2008, Henry declares, “I love living in Ward 7. The greenery reminds me of Jamaica.”

Founding Soup Up
When Henry looked for a brick-and-mortar location to serve her signature soups, eight years ago, she found no viable spots near her beloved Ward 7. Initially, she set up in a stall in Union Market. Later, she found a location in Ward 4.

Today, Henry runs Soup Up (www.soupup.us) at 709 Kennedy St. NW, in the Brightwood neighborhood. She uses organic local produce, fresh herbs and spices to create healthy soups, salads, spring rolls and wraps. Creamy white bean with roasted chicken soup, a go-go gumbo and a green-machine vegan soup are among the specialties. “I enjoy creating and making things from scratch. I enjoy the journey to defy any and everything that stands in the way of becoming better than you were yesterday,” says Henry.

One of her most ardent customers is Andi Dodwell Wright, a Ward 7 neighbor. The two met walking their dogs. “Her soups are so delicious,” explains Wright. “They are to die for! I love the fact that they are never prepared with any additives, preservatives, dairy or even any oil. I had to make sure that my husband and [adult] son were aware of this fine cuisine,” she adds.

Food Author
Wanting to reach a wider audience, Henry turned to the written word. She has authored a series of children’s books. During a pre-pandemic dinner out with a friend, she realized that most District residents were ill informed about the District’s history. She says she encountered one resident who thought Michelle Obama was the mayor.

“My Go-Go,” a children’s book by Donna Henry.

To change this would require starting with the young. She calls her series of children’s books “My D.C.” They are designed to engage, excite, educate and empower students. The DC Public Schools have chosen her book, “My Go-Go,” to be a supplementary reading aid for third- and fourth-graders studying social studies. Henry just completed a second installment, “A Tale of Two Straws.”

Next Steps
Today, while working her day job as a public affairs specialist for the DC Department of Energy & Environment (DOEE), Henry is hoping to purchase a log cabin in the country, not too far from her beloved District. This dynamo continues her writing and cooking as well, with the goal of opening a second soup bar in Ward 7.

“I have about 100 customers who make regular trips from Southeast to patronize my soups,” says Henry. “I am perfection in progress, and where I am in the process is perfect,” she says, reciting her mantra.