Orthodox Youth Support IOCC, Local Charities through ‘Souper’ Effort

Baltimore, MD (February 20, 2004) — On February 1, St. John the Theologian Orthodox Church was only a half-hour drive from Super Bowl XXXVIII, but the hype of that day didn’t distract the parishioners from a very special mission.

The Greek Orthodox parish in Webster, Texas, raised $75 for charity and collected 40 cans of food for a nearby food pantry through the “Souper Bowl of Caring.” St. John’s was one of many Orthodox parishes throughout the country to participate in the annual event this year.

“We’re a small parish, but we exceeded last year’s results,” said Michael Savage, parish youth director.

For six years, Orthodox churches in the United States have joined in the “Souper Bowl” as a way to support International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC), the humanitarian aid agency of Orthodox Christians, and other charitable organizations.

High school senior Areti Moustakis, 18, of Montville, N.J., organized her parish’s “Souper Bowl” event in 2003 and this year. “There were a lot of people who were happy about what we were doing,” said Areti, who attends St. George Orthodox Church in Clifton, N.J. “I don’t think there was a person who walked by who didn’t contribute.”

In the weeks leading up to Super Bowl Sunday, Areti used IOCC materials to post notices in the parish hall and parish bulletin. After Divine Liturgy on February 1, Areti gave a short talk about the “Souper Bowl.” Then the young people at St. George’s stationed themselves at the church entrances and collected $450 for charity.

The children of Christ the Savior Orthodox Church in Woodbury, Conn., raised more than $300 for IOCC, in addition to collecting 10 grocery bags full of nonperishable food items for a local food bank.

“They were really enthusiastic, and I think that’s why the adults responded the way they did,” said Fr. Vladimir Aleandro, pastor of the Orthodox Church in America (OCA) mission. The “Souper Bowl” activity was reinforced by the day’s church school lesson, and a trip to the Woodbury Food Bank, he said.

“I think the children were conscious that they were helping people both locally and all over the world,” Fr. Vladimir said. “One little boy said, ‘Wow, I hope somebody gets a really good meal from this.’ ”

The “Souper Bowl of Caring,” started in 1990 by a Presbyterian church in Columbia, S.C., has grown into a grassroots movement linked with the national pastime of Super Bowl Sunday. In 2003, about 12,000 congregations, including many Orthodox parishes, raised $3.5 million for various charities.

The totals for 2004 are still being tallied. In addition to the OCA, participating parishes represented a broad cross-section of the Orthodox Church in the United States, including Antiochian, Greek, Serbian, Ukrainian and Romanian parishes.

Young people, with the guidance of their youth leader or parish priest, help locally by giving the food items to a food pantry or soup kitchen, and globally by sending their monetary donation to a charity such as IOCC.

By selecting IOCC as their charity of choice, youth groups support programs that feed and clothe vulnerable children and educate and train young people in 14 countries. For more information about IOCC and its humanitarian programs, please visit www.iocc.org.