When Super Bowl Sunday rolls around, most people look forward to filling up on their favorite snacks and critiquing new commercials, but the members of the Pine Shores Presbyterian Church Youth Group celebrated in a different way.
For the seventh consecutive year, the group collected donations and food to support the nationwide Souper Bowl of Caring program.
According to coordinator Terri Jo Crego, Pine Shores raised $17,432 and collected 2,365 cans of soup for All Faiths Food Bank— the largest total of any Presbyterian church in the country, and the second biggest collection of any denomination.
“Food drives like this are so important,” said Nicole Double, interim executive director of All Faiths Food Bank. “We wouldn’t be able to keep up without the community stepping up, and Pine Shores’ contributions have been massive.”
The youth group’s accomplishments are even more impressive when the size of Pine Shores’ congregation (about 500 members) is compared to the membership of other churches across the country.
While the youth group had come close in years past to its impressive 2012 numbers, it always had been topped by a church with 5,000 members.
“There are definitely much bigger youth groups out there,” said Crego. “We have about 20 kids in our group. We’re not in competition with these other churches; it’s just exciting to see this kind of response.”
Crego attributes the program’s success to Pine Shores’ enthusiasm for mission-oriented projects and the initiative taken by the younger church members, who helped lead worship services, made promotional materials and gathered in the donations.
“I knew hunger was a pressing issue, but I wasn’t aware of just how pressing it was until I saw the statistics about hunger, even in our own community,” said William St. Pierre, a sophomore at Pine Shores and a member of the youth group. “I realized that I was much more fortunate than a lot of other people, and I felt a moral obligation to help other members of community.”
Souper Bowl of Caring was started in 1990 at Spring Valley Presbyterian Church in Columbia, S.C., as a way to use Super Bowl weekend to unite people in helping others. Since then, youth groups across the country have raised more than $81 million for food banks and other charities.