Christian Outreach gives up second Saturday

Published 12:31 pm Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Can’t compete with Town and Country events

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

Faced with increasing pressure from competing events, Isle of Wight Christian Outreach has decided to move Souper Saturday to Oct. 15.

However, it will remain at Trinity United Methodist Church and will have the same hours, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The ecumenical group, representing many of the county’s churches, held the first Souper Saturday 25 years ago. From then until now, the event has been scheduled on the second Saturday of October. The move announced Monday will shift the event to the third Saturday in October, separating it from the town and tourism-sponsored Town and Country Days that now dominate the second Saturday. Town and Country Days this year will be Oct. 8. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Souper Saturday began as a stand-alone event, focused on raising funds to help the county’s poor pay to heat their homes in winter. Gradually, other events were added, beginning with the annual Hog Job, the proceeds of which go directly to COP’s fund drive, and then, some years ago, the farmers market.

As the other events increased, parking downtown became difficult and just getting to Trinity to deliver or eat soup became challenging.

With the addition of the Vintage Market on an already crowded schedule of events, Souper Saturday organizers felt they had no choice but to move the date to keep the event viable.

Vintage market organizers are predicting a turnout of 10,000 people on Oct. 8 — more than the population of the town of Smithfield. That turnout is in addition to participants in the Hog Jog, the Farmer’s Market and other Town and Country Day events. All are being held in downtown Smithfield.

There was no way Souper Saturday could have been held successfully in the midst of that, said longtime Souper Saturday chairperson Farmer.

Main Street Baptist Church generously offered its facility if COP wanted to try and move the soup kitchen away from the vintage market crowd, but parking would still be a major concern, Farmer said, noting that a crowd like the one anticipated will use every bit of parking in the Historic District and some beyond.

Isle of Wight County Director of Tourism Judy Winslow said the vintage market was added to Town and Country Day events to replace a Ruritan vintage car show, which has experienced dwindling interest.

Souper Saturday features homemade soup from Christian Outreach’s consortium of churches, and the proceeds go towards heating fuel assistance administered by Isle of Wight County Social Services. In 2014, proceeds from Souper Saturday were sufficient to assist 79 families in Isle of Wight County.

“It’s a great community event, for all people and all churches,” said Farmer, who ran the program for more than 20 years before retiring as chairperson.

The program has generated as much as $12,000 in a year, but revenues have dropped in recent years, and last year, Christian Outreach had to add some funds to keep it at an even $10,000, Farmer said.

Farmer attributes the drop in revenues to an increasingly busy Town and Country Day where parking is at a premium and many of their attendees are older and are daunted by the crowds and traffic.

“We’re going to have our nice day on the Saturday after (Town and Country Day). It will be our day,” she said.

“We really need people to rally around Souper Saturday that next Saturday,” Farmer said.  {/mprestriction}