Your Name: Keith Rhoden, Jr.
Your Group: First Presbyterian Church
Location: Hartford, CT
Years Participated: 11
First Year: 2003
This Year: Collected $2,220 for Hands On Hartford: MANNA food pantry
How did you hear of Souper Bowl of Caring?Jane Murray, our Sunday School Chairperson, began doing Souper Bowl of Caring in the early 2000's after receiving a brochure. The Youth Group adopted it in 2005 and has conducted it since.
Why did you choose to join the Souper Bowl of Caring team?It seemed like a well timed start to the giving year after the Christmas season charity drives had faded a bit.
What does your group do to participate in the Souper Bowl of Caring movement?We usually set an extravagant but reachable goal based on some silly football stat (one year we tried to collect the weight of the Chicago Bears' offensive line) and then collect offerings of canned food and place the food in the first few pews of he church to create awareness and a visual impact of how much food is coming in. We also collect money from our elderly members or those who choose not to shop and purchase canned goods for them. Our last drive is to collect the loose offering on Super Bowl Sunday and purchase more food with the proceeds. After that is the big schlep when we bring in all of the goods to the MANNA Pantry.
What have you found is most successful for raising cash and food items?The folks at the MANNA Pantry in Hartford and their coordinator Rosa Santiago are always beyond appreciative of the collection as it relieves pressure during what is usually a slow collection time during the year.
Tell us a little about where you donate your collection to.The MANNA Pantry is an outreach effort that serves Hartford's Park Street community. Roughly 80 families per week shop at the pantry and, combined with Foodshare's efforts to provide fresh produce, the Pantry is a great tool for those families to feed themselves and to have money left for heating, health care, or other pressing needs. The Pantry atmosphere tries to replicate a small grocery store so that people feel comfortable about going there.
What does participating in Souper Bowl of Caring mean to your group?It's a good way for everyone to participate in kick-starting a New Year of generosity resulting in a very uplifting effort during the gloom of winter, making a good counter weight to some of the frivolity and excess of the game itself.
What does it mean to you?It means I can run something that makes a difference, is a success, and helps everyone at FPC feel small (in numbers) yet Mighty (in results).
Background notes from Office Manager Ruth Van Anden:Elder George Blick was a Youth Group Leader at First Hartford for many years. He "came out of retirement" to lead this year's effort when the current youth leader moved out of state for work. The church has 127 active members and average attendance on Sundays is 64. First Presbyterian Church, Hartford is a diverse and multi-ethnic community of faith and its congregants come from all over the greater Hartford area. Congregants donate to the MANNA pantry regularly, averaging 40 pounds a week of non-perishable food items. Donations for the Souper Bowl of Caring in the past two years have topped two tons each. This year's goal was 2015 pounds of food, the final total came to 2220.