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Souper Bowl of Caring ready for big game, but helping less fortunate is year-round mission

Lexington, SC (Paul Kirby) – The Souper Bowl of Caring is getting their team ready for the upcoming big game. On Super Bowl Sunday they’ll be prepared to take the win again and be the champs when the final seconds tick off the clock. The interesting part is, their team will never set foot on the field at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. No, their big game is played out every day of the year and they already have a 29-year record of victories over an ominous opponent, poverty.

In July of 2018 it was estimated that almost 80% of Americans live from paycheck to paycheck. That means that even the most minor disruption in their lives could leave them with little or no food, a place to live, or even the most basic necessities of life. The sad part is, many of these American families have children that would suffer the most if a tragedy affected their parents’ ability to get that next check. That’s why winning with the Souper Bowl of Caring is so important. It coordinates all types of efforts to provide immediate relief if some event plunges you, your family, or someone you know into a place where the money just won’t stretch to cover the basic bills.

The history of the program is best explained on their website, souperbowl.org. The neat thing is, this now nationwide program started right here in the Midlands of SC. In 1990, a simple prayer delivered by Brad Smith, then a seminary intern serving at Spring Valley Presbyterian Church in Columbia, sparked the movement. That prayer was: "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." His words didn’t fall on deaf ears. In fact, it inspired first the young people and congregants at that church, and later a youth-led movement to help hungry and hurting people around the world, to do something to about hunger and poverty. The young people and the church thought, why not use Super Bowl weekend, a time when people come together for football and fun, to also unify the nation for a higher good, collecting dollars and canned food for the needy? The first year, the church’s youth collected donations in large soup pots, and they sent every dollar directly to a local charity of their choice. Now, 29 years later, the Souper Bowl of Caring has spread to all 50 states. In the first year, the kids collected over $5,000 they gave away. In 2018, 3,852 groups helped collect approximately $2,789,000.00 and 4,164,923 pounds of food. The greatest thing is, 100% of this was donated; there was NO administrative cost taken from it! None of it is sent to a central Souper Bowl headquarters to be distributed. You and your group make the decision how to help by giving right where you live in your community.

Debbie Summers, the Souper Bowl of Caring’s local coordinator, said that while most of the donations goes toward food for local pantries, it doesn’t have to. If clothes and coats are needed, or home repairs for someone less fortunate is what’s in order, it’s okay for your group to give in that way. It could be glasses for children who have bad eyes, medical bills for the elderly, or even a freezer for the local food bank. The place your group’s efforts support is decided by you, the people who know the needs of your community best.

Although the Souper Bowl of Caring started around Super Bowl Sunday, it’s now a year-round effort. You can raise money to donate in any way you like, but the simple soup pot at the bank of the church is still effective. People can give the change in their pocket or as much as they want. The Souper Bowl of Caring will provide stickers for your pot, or any other support they can. They love new and creative ideas about how to raise money. They recruit new groups to do the work. Last year there were 3,852. The Souper Bowl’s staff can help you make contact with local charities if you need that assistance. They can provide as much guidance as you need, you just need to bring the desire to help and the manpower.

If you’d like to help here around us, you can contact Debbie Summers by telephone at (803) 518-6858. You can also learn more on their website at souperbowl.org.

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