By Anya Bochman
The First Presbyterian Church of Verona, which recently celebrated its 121st anniversary, has once again participated in its Souper Bowl of Caring tradition on Super Bowl Sunday on Feb. 5.
A church custom for a decade, the Souper Bowl of Caring is also a national youth effort to fight hunger and poverty in local communities, organized around the Super Bowl. In the weeks leading up to or on the event, young people nationwide start up a collection, often using a soup pot, asking for one dollar or one item of food for individuals in need.
One hundred percent of their gathered donations contribute directly to the local hunger-relief charity of their choice. In 2017, a total of 5,774 participating groups came together to collect 765,205 items of food and raise $3,832,192.
The church’s mission statement, which declares it an institution that, amongst other charitable efforts, spreads goodwill “through an active program of Christian education and music for children, families and individuals of all ages,” succeeded again this year. The congregation collected 124 cans of soup to be donated to the Verona Food Pantry at the Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit in Verona, and raised $246 for the Interfaith Hospitality Network of Essex County – an organization that helps homeless families in need of shelter by giving them a place to stay and three meals a day in its network of churches and synagogues.
Pastor Lynn Rubier-Capron of First Presbyterian Church of Verona explained that the project began ten years ago through a network of Presbyterian churches.
“It went viral – and this was without the internet,” she said. Rubier-Capron went on to state that the congregation’s views are “very oriented to benefit other people” – and congregants have just such an opportunity on a day meant for fun and relaxing.
“The turnout was 100 percent of the youth in our church,” Rubier-Capron commented. She added that this type of charitable contribution is typical for the youth of the congregation, who regularly participate in such events as the “Sunday Suppers,” where they help prepare food to be delivered to people who cannot leave their homes.Top of Form
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The other charitable organization involved in the local annual event, the Verona Food Pantry, is a ministry of the Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit and collects food and financial donations for families and individuals in times of need. Open from 9 a.m.-11 a.m. on the fourth Saturday of every month, the pantry was created in April of last year and has seen an influx in both volunteers and those in need of donations.
Reverend Jerry A. Racioppi of Holy Spirit has described the First Presbyterian Church’s contributions as “very generous.”
He said, “There is a need even in a town like Verona. There is no shame in needing help, and we do everything in our power to keep everything confidential.”
Speaking of the Souper Bowl of Caring event, as well as the town of Verona, Racioppi added that the Pantry has received excellent local support. “The support from Verona has been great in volunteers and food contributions – really typical for Verona.”