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United Methodist youth raise $830,000 for the hungry

A UMNS Report
By Linda Green*
Feb. 26, 2008

United Methodist youth teamed up on Super Bowl Sunday with young people across the United States to raise more than $9 million in goods and dollars to fight hunger and poverty in their local communities through the 2008 Souper Bowl of Caring.

More than 13,600 churches, schools and businesses participated in this year's campaign, including about 2,200 United Methodist congregations and about 25,000 United Methodist youth, said Caroline Stephens, director of church relations for the nonprofit Souper Bowl organization.

United Methodist collections total approximately $830,000 thus far this year.

"We are excited about the extraordinary participation among United Methodist congregations in the 2008 Souper Bowl of Caring. More United Methodist churches registered to participate than ever before," Stephens said.

In 2007, more than 2,700 United Methodist churches participated, raising nearly $975,000 in goods and dollars.

Groups have been reporting their collection totals to the campaign's home office in Columbia, S.C., since Super Bowl Sunday on Feb. 3.

"We hope churches that have not yet reported … will do so, so that we can accurately measure the impact (that United Methodist) congregations had on the fight against hunger in the days surrounding Super Bowl Sunday," Stephens said.

The Souper Bowl of Caring is designed to transform the weekend of the NFL football championship game into the nation's largest youth-led weekend of giving and serving.

Since the campaign's launch in 1990, young people have raised more than $41 million for soup kitchens, food banks and other charities in communities across the world. During or following worship on game day, youth and young adults in all 50 U.S. states stand at the doors of their churches, collecting $1 or a can of food from each person walking by.

"We view it as an opportunity to help educate the congregation and kids on how many blessings that we each have," said Amanda Ferguson, youth leader at Central United Methodist Church in Phoenix, which collected $350 for this year's Souper Bowl. The group also participates "to recognize others in need and to share their blessings with them."

The youth of Grant Memorial United Methodist Church, Presque Isle, Maine, participates because "it makes a very good connection with the kids," said the Rev. David Williams. "The whole sports and hunger thing is something they can really relate to, and our kids are very into missions and mission work. It is just a natural connection. They get excited about it and get the congregation excited." This year, the group raised more than $500.

At Seay-Hubbard United Methodist Church in Nashville, Tenn., the youth raised $300 for local and worldwide mission. "Our youth have participated in the Souper Bowl of Caring for the past three years because engaging in this activity provides an opportunity to help people immediately," said Helen Allen, youth group leader.

In talking with people about hunger, Allen said, the youth have been surprised at the number of people who do not have food and the impact of hunger on people that they know. "It gives them a connection," she said.

The United Methodist Committee on Relief encourages churches and youth groups that have not yet designated a charity for their Souper Bowl collection to direct part of their gift to the World Hunger/Poverty program, UMCOR Advance #982920.

To report Souper Bowl collections, visit http://www.soupbowl.org or call (800) 358-SOUP (3687).

*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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