Written by Gayle Starling-Melvin
Jay Sullivan, 13, scoops a bowl of chili, one of several hundred served during this year's "Souper Bowl" at Immanuel UCC, Evergreen Park, Ill. Sue Gross photo.
Statistics confirm that once again the "Souper Bowl of Caring," held this year on Jan. 28, was a success.
"A few reports are still trickling in," says Brad Smith, creator of the annual event, "but so far we have exceeded last year's totals."
Data for this year shows that 506 UCC churches participated, contributing $98,159 in the equivalent of cash and canned items. In 2000, 436 UCC congregations took part, raising $71,753 in cash and cans of soup.
"This is a dollar increase of 37 percent and an increase of 16 percent in participating local churches," says June Boutwell, Minister for Youth, Young Adults and the Outdoors with UCC's national setting.
Even though there are still reports to be sent in, Smith says it appears as though there was participation from all 50 states.
The youth group of Immanuel UCC in Evergreen Park, Ill., just outside of Chicago, put a different twist on their Souper Bowl Sunday. Instead of standing at exit doors of their church sanctuaries collecting money or cans of soup, they served parishioners bowls of soup and chili after the service and asked each one to contribute one dollar.
A total of $256 was raised and donated to Public Action to Deliver Shelter (PADS), an ecumenical emergency program that provides shelter, adequate food and hospitality at faith community sites in south suburban Chicago.
"Since I became Immanuel's director of youth ministries a year ago," says Vanessa Lovelace, "Souper Bowl of Caring is the most enthusiastically received event our youth have participated in. The congregation's support of their efforts was also encouraging."
The Rev. Joseph Alfred, pastor of Immanuel, says that this was the first year Immanuel took part in the Souper Bowl.
"Considering this was the first time we were involved in this particular project, it proved to be very successful," says Alfred. "It was the largest turnout of youth we've had for any of our youth activities."
Congregations still needing to check in with their tallies should call 800-358-7687.