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United Methodists help increase Souper Bowl's score

5/10/2001 News media contact: Linda Green · (615) 742-5470 · Nashville, Tenn

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) - The United Methodist Church had fewer congregations this year collecting supplies for the needy on Super Bowl Sunday, but the denomination helped boost the national "Souper Bowl of Caring" campaign by $500,000.

A total of 2,381 United Methodist churches generated $643,555 of the $3.6 million national total to help the needy through the annual Souper Bowl campaign, held Jan. 28. That's 73 fewer churches than last year, when 2,454 United Methodist congregations raised almost $500,000 of the national total of $3.1 million.

Nationally, 12,552 churches, congregations, schools and businesses representing all 50 states, Canada, Germany, Holland and the Marshall Islands raised money to help hungry and hurting people in 2001 and increased the donations to food banks, pantries and soup kitchens by 14 percent, said Chris Burke, the effort's statistician.

The Souper Bowl campaign has encouraged thousands of churches to use the Sunday of the national championship football game to raise money for hunger projects of their choice. An estimated $13.5 million has been given to the poor since the campaign began in Columbia, S.C., in 1990.

The Souper Bowl game plan is simple: Young people stand at the sanctuary's doors on Super Bowl Sunday and collect money and canned goods in large containers. The donations are sent directly to a local soup kitchen, food bank or other organization chosen by the youth. Souper Bowl organizers never touch the donations.

"The Souper Bowl of Caring demonstrates the power of working together," said the Rev. Brad Smith, the movement's founder and executive director. "Our nationwide effort is a subtle reminder - a mustard seed -- that ordinary people, with God's help, can do extraordinary good if we work together."

The states with the most United Methodist participation were Pennsylvania, 247 churches; South Carolina, 186 churches; Ohio, 143 churches; Georgia, 138 churches; and North Carolina, 136 churches.

In addition to United Methodists, the 2001 Souper Bowl team also included Roman Catholics, Presbyterians, Lutherans and Baptists. Nearly 15 denominations participated in the effort.

The five states that posted the largest increases in United Methodist participation over last year were Massachusetts, Nevada, North Carolina, West Virginia and Minnesota

Last year, the youth director and the senior pastor at Walnut Grove United Methodist Church in Kenton, Ohio, shaved their beards after the church collected 600 nonperishable items and $400. This year, Senior Pastor Tom Hite and Youth Pastor Jason Cox greeted the congregation from the church roof.

At Trinity United Methodist Church in Smithfield, Va., the youth dressed as football players and cheerleaders and talked about Souper Bowl Sunday. Meanwhile, a remote-control blimp belonging to one of the youth flew out from behind the pulpit and over the congregation. The test flights had gone over well, but on the big day, the blimp had altitude troubles. Instead of flying over the congregation, it buzzed the heads of the congregants. Finally a member batted it across the aisle to the other side, generating laughter.

As they did this year, campaign officials are planning a Souper Bowl Service Blitz for 2002, in which young people would serve at a kitchen, food bank or other charity on Jan. 12.

"Our goal is to have groups do this in at least 200 cities," Smith said. "This will provide much needed service as well as kick off the Souper Bowl 'season' on Jan. 27."
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