For the past nine years, dozens of area businesses, restaurants and volunteers have come together each February to help raise tens of thousands of dollars for ministries provided by The Salvation Army and The Salvation Army Women's Auxiliary.
Pat Wickliff and Carolyn Carpenter, auxiliary members and co-chairs of the annual Souper Bowl and Bake Sale, are hopeful this year's event will raise more than last year's record-setting amount of $46,000.
The money raised will get distributed throughout Cabarrus and Stanly counties and helps people buy food, pay utilities or even rent. It also helps provide educational scholarships, summer camps and clothing and toys for children around Christmas.
The Souper Bowl, sponsored by Shoe Show Inc., was Feb. 21 at Forest Hill United Methodist Church, near downtown Concord. At noon, the church's 16 six-seat tables were full and a line of about 30 people extended to the door. Outside, parking was scarce.
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For $10, patrons got two bowls of their choice of soup, a cookie and a beverage.
"We printed 500 to 600 tickets and had 60 to 70 gallons of soup donated," said Carpenter, a member of the Cabarrus County school board. "What we don't use, we'll bring to the Salvation Army's soup kitchen and night shelter in Concord.
"This event takes about a year to pull together; it doesn't happen over night."
Hundreds visited to sample soups and desserts provided by 30 Cabarrus-area restaurants and businesses, from mom-and-pop operations such as Harrisburg Family House Restaurant, Union Street Bistro and Restaurant 46 to such corporate contributors as IHOP, Olive Garden and Longhorn Steakhouse.
Steaming varieties of soup ranged from potato and bacon, vegetable and taco to shrimp bisque, tomato basil and pasta e fagioli, or pasta fazool.
In the kitchen, Concord police and firefighters dished out soup orders as patrons shouted their choices from the other side of the counter.
They also dished out light-hearted jabs between bowls.
"This guy is the ballroom dancing champ of Cabarrus County.... He's so young, he doesn't even have any hair on his arms," police officer Larry Hubbard said jokingly about his fellow server, firefighter Colton Edwards.
"I've served so much soup today, it's coming out my ears," Edwards replied. "And it's tough because I have to pick up the slack of the Concord police over there."
Hubbard, along with fellow officer Marty Barnhardt, has volunteered as a server at the event for the past three years. This was Edwards' first year volunteering for the effort.
Without the 50-plus volunteers and hundreds of donations, Carpenter said, the fundraiser wouldn't be half as successful as it is today.
"I really like what we're able to do here," she said. "We're taking money and using it to help people that need it. It's going directly into the community to help people pay rent, utilities or even prescription medication."