Soup was on the menu following services at several area churches Sunday-part of a national Souper Bowl of Caring event that since 1990 has generated more than $90 million for local food banks and similar charities across the U.S.
"And the soup is good, too-I liked the clam chowder, cream of mushroom, and cheeseburger soup. They're all good," said Pastor George Spransy at Marietta's First Presbyterian Church.
Kathryn Hartline helps the church youth group coordinate the annual Souper Bowl event that's held after church every Super Bowl Sunday. She said most of the 104 members who attended Sunday's services participated in the soup lunch.
SAM SHAWVER The Marietta Times
The soup was on during Sunday’s annual Souper Bowl of Caring event at the First Presbyterian Church in Williamstown. Church youth group servers, from left, are Lauren Mendez, Tori Poole, and Sarah Rabatin.
"We had about a dozen different soups. Several members donate a crock of soup, and we share a recipe for at least one of the soups every year," she said. "Participants bring a can of food or give a monetary donation that we pass on to the Marietta Community Food Pantry."
Spransy noted the Souper Bowl of Caring began in 1990 in Columbia, S.C. Twenty-two of Columbia's churches raised more than $5,700 for local charities that year.
By 1993 churches and schools in 36 states had joined the hunger relief effort.
About Souper Bowl of Caring:
"Lord, even as we enjoy the Super Bowl football game, help us be mindful of those who are without a bowl of soup to eat."
That prayer, delivered on Super Bowl Sunday in 1990 by Brad Smith, an intern serving at Spring Valley Presbyterian Church in Columbia, S.C., inspired the national Souper Bowl of Caring event sponsored annually by local church youth groups across the U.S.
Monetary and food donations received during the annual Souper Bowls support local community food pantries and other charitable efforts.
Since 1990 the Souper Bowl events have generated more than $90 million for soup kitchens, pantries, and other charities nationwide.
The First Presbyterian Churches in both Marietta and Williamstown have participated in the Souper Bowl for around 20 years now.
"I think it's awesome that people can share a meal and help the local food pantry," said Williamstown High senior Lauren Mendez who helped serve soup at Williamstown's First Presbyterian.
Fellow server Tori Poole agreed.
"Church members bring soup and desserts, and we collect monetary donations for the Williamstown pantry," she said.
Coordinator Nellie Howard said the annual event raises anywhere from $200 to $600 for the local pantry.
"Church youth groups all across the country are holding Souper Bowl events to support their community food pantries," she said. "And all the donations stay here in the local area."
Karen Fenton with Williamstown's Food Pantry said the help is greatly appreciated and helps provide food and other services for those in need.
"We have a lot of elderly clients, too," she said. "We pack between 70 and 75 boxes of food every month, but we also help with some expenses."
The pantry is a service of the Williamstown Welfare League, according to treasurer Mary Jo Kinney.
"The monetary donations are very helpful, too, as we also help people pay for prescriptions or utility bills," she said.
Pastor Elizabeth Campbell-Maleke said Sunday was her second annual Souper Bowl of Caring event at First Presbyterian in Williamstown.
"It's a wonderful way for churches to respond to an immediate need in their communities," she said.
Pastor Diann O'Bryant said the Gilman Avenue United Methodist Church also had a good turnout for Souper Bowl Sunday. The church doesn't serve a meal, but members are encouraged to bring non-perishable food donations for the Marietta Community Food Pantry.
"We have a good stack of food that was donated, but we'll be taking some more donations next Sunday for members who may not have been able to make it to church this week," she said.
Marietta Community Food Pantry director Bill Farnsworth said community support through annual Souper Bowls and other events is critical.
"We receive hundreds of dollars from churches who participate in the Souper Bowl every year," he said. "And this comes at a good time, too. After the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays our donations tend to drop off. So these events are very important."
Farnsworth said the pantry is seeing more new people in need of services in recent months.
"A lot of those people are 'working poor.' They only have a part time job, and their hours may vary from week to week," he said. "They're trying to keep up with high gasoline prices and medical bills, and these food and monetary contributions are what helps see them through."
Other local churches who held Souper Bowl events Sunday included Tunnel and Warren Chapel United Methodist churches, and St. Luke's Lutheran Church in Marietta.