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Churches use 'Souper' Sunday to assist needy

January 21, 2002

Churches use 'Souper' Sunday to assist needy



By MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

For the last five years, the youth of Hagerstown's Haven Lutheran Church have spent Super Bowl Sunday engaged in a rather unique spin-off activity where a soup bowl is passed instead of a football.

Known as "Souper" Bowl of Caring, the event trades on the name recognition value of the sports event to encourage people to donate money for those less fortunate in their communities.

A year ago, Souper Bowl saw 12,500 churches, congregations, schools and businesses representing all 50 states and Canada together raise $3.6 million to help hungry and hurting people.

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"Our middle and senior high youth will be standing at the doors of the sanctuary with soup pots in their hands," said the Rev. Torben Aarsand, who has headed up the annual activity since he came to Haven. About 25 young people are involved in youth activities at Haven.

This year, Haven youth haven't decided yet what charity to target for the money they will collect, Aarsand said. That choice is entirely up to the youth even though Aarsand usually gives them options.

"In the past, the money has gone to the food bank at St. Mark's Lutheran Church and to REACH," Aarsand said. REACH, which operates the Cold Weather Shelter, stands for Religious Effort to Assist and Care for the Homeless.

The Souper Bowl of Caring seeks to "love the Lord our God and love our neighbors" by encouraging people to give one dollar or more, or food items as they leave worship on Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 3.

All the money and any food collected is then sent directly to a charity selected by each group.

"We've chosen the Hagerstown Food Bank this year," said Susan Herbst, youth director at Hagerstown Church of the Brethren. For the fourth year in a row, the 15-plus young people will collect canned food items from parishioners on the way into church that Sunday and money on the way out.

The youth count the money and then report the amount of their collection via the Internet or by calling 1-800-358-SOUP on game day. This enables the national totals to be determined even though all the money stays here, Aarsand said.

In Hancock, the young people of Stone Bridge Church of the Brethren will also be collecting money again this year.

"We've been involved for about four years when I first got something in the mail about it," said Peggy Strite. "It sounded good."

This year's benefactor hasn't been selected yet but in years past, Mount Hope Prison Ministries has been the designated agency for Stone Bridge funds, Strite said.

A number of other Tri-State-area churches are participating this year in the 10th annual project.

In Hagerstown, Souper Bowl churches include Hagerstown Church of the Brethren, Washington Square United Methodist, Beaver Creek Church of the Brethren and St. John's Lutheran in addition to Haven Lutheran.

Benevola United Methodist and Mt. Nebo United Methodist churches in Boonsboro are involved, as is the Brownsville (Md.) Church of the Brethren.

Frederick, Md., churches include Evangelical Lutheran, All Saints Episcopal, Evangelical Reform Church, Trinity United Methodist and Grace United Church of Christ.

Moler Avenue Church of the Brethren and Otterbein United Methodist in Martinsburg, W.Va., are on board.

In Middletown, Md., Holy Family Catholic Church is participating, as are the Church of the Brethren and United Methodist churches in Thurmont, Md.

Other area congregations involved in Souper Bowl of Caring are Mountain View Church of the Brethren in Bunker Hill, W.Va.; Charles Town (W.Va.) Baptist; Falling Waters Presbyterian, Hedgesville, W.Va.; Shenandoah Junction (W.Va.) United Methodist; and St. Peter's Lutheran, Presbyterian and Christ Reformed churches, all in Shepherdstown, W.Va.

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