Church takes soup collection to super heights

By ANDREW MCGINN
a.mcginn@beeherald.com

With excitement building for Super Bowl XLVIII, one Jefferson church hopes to use the occasion to collect more than MMMMCDXCV cans of soup.

In other words, in the days leading up to Super Bowl 48 on Feb. 2, First Presbyterian Church will try to top the 4,495 cans of soup its members collected last year.

It’s all part of a national food relief campaign called the Souper Bowl of Caring, but in Jefferson, the event is rapidly ascending to the kind of spectacular heights worthy of the Super Bowl itself.

At First Presbyterian, if you’re gonna go collect soup, go big.

“We’ve always tried to put an element of fun on it,” church member Keri Brooker said. “But the bottom line is, we’ve collected a lot of food.”

Let that number of soup cans collected last year really sink in — 4,495.

“You think about it, and you go, ‘Wow,’ ” Brooker said.

All food collection events are noble.

Some merit special attention.

And then there’s the Souper Bowl.

“Nobody has done anything like that before,” confessed Dianne Blackmer, site manager for the Greene County Christian Action Resource Center, or ARC, food pantry, which received more than half of the church’s haul last year.

“It was absolutely amazing,” she said.

With the Super Bowl matchup now set, First Presbyterian will collect soup the next three Sundays.

“We’ve got some people who just took it to heart,” Brooker said. “It was always somewhat of a challenge.”

This year, for the first time, the Jefferson church has challenged the Presbyterian congregations in Grand Junction and Paton.

First Presbyterian in Jefferson is undoubtedly the Manning of this nascent rivalry. Who emerges as the Tom Brady is a toss-up.

“We’ve always surpassed our goal,” Brooker said.

To put it another way, if you like soup and you’re not Presbyterian, you better get to Fareway before they do.

Whether it’s condensed or chunky, chicken noodle or split pea, no can is safe.

“It will be interesting to see what the Presbyterians come up with this year,” Blackmer said.

Last year’s collection, however, caught even the local Presbyterians by surprise.

“We were dumbfounded,” Brooker said. “There was just this mountain.”

Half of all soup collected is donated to the ARC.

The Jefferson congregation last year sent an additional 1,000 cans to a men’s homeless shelter in Fort Dodge and 500 to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

At the ARC, last year’s donation came at a critical time — Blackmer was just about to go out and purchase more soup for the pantry.

Instead, the soup collected during the Souper Bowl lasted at the ARC until October, Blackmer said.

“I had no idea they were bringing that much,” she said.

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