It may not be as storied as the National Football League's Super Bowl, but Opportunity House's annual Souper Bowl is still a competition of epic portions.
Monday night marked the 15th annual Souper Bowl, held at the Crowne Plaza Reading hotel in Wyomissing. Twenty-seven area businesses faced off for a good cause in pursuit of the Silver Spoon Award.
The Souper Bowl is an annual fundraiser for Opportunity House, a Reading-based nonprofit organization that helps the homeless or low-income people and guides them toward self-sufficiency.
The businesses each bring in about five gallons of soup for attendees to sample, who later vote on the best one. The business that receives the most votes receives the coveted Silver Spoon Award, which is a gigantic spoon. This year's winner was the Crowne Plaza Reading for its southwestern smoked rotisserie chicken soup.
About 475 people attended the event, making it one of the more successful Souper Bowls, according to Kate Alley, vice president of marketing and development for Opportunity House.
"My sense is just looking at this room, that this is gonna be one of our largest years ever," Alley said.
She attributed this year's success to moving the event from the spring to the winter, which connects more with people's appetite for hot soup in cold weather.
Each attendee also receives a handmade bowl that was donated to the event by area students, professional pottery artists and community groups.
There were about 800 ceramic bowls to pick from, plus additional bowls for purchase via silent auction.
"I think people fundamentally love it because it gives you a chance to try a lot of soups and it's for a good cause and it gives you a chance to connect with people and you also get a really beautiful bowl out of it, too," Alley said.
The money raised will support the programs run by Opportunity House. The nonprofit runs a homeless shelter; transitional and permanent housing; a 24/7 day care center; OppShop, a thrift store; and its Children's Alliance Center, which serves child victims of sexual abuse.
A fundraising total was unavailable Monday night.
The Souper Bowl kicked off with a preview party at 4:30 p.m., which allowed people to get the first crack at picking a bowl and sampling the soups. About 125 people attended, making it probably the largest in its history, according to Alley.
Nancy List, a Cumru Township resident, has volunteered every year of the Souper Bowl and organized the very first one before Opportunity House got involved years ago.
She said it was "very exciting" to watch how the event grew "way beyond what I imagined it could be."
List's sister, Charlotte Jewell, of Skagway, Alaska, said she remembers her sister putting in "hundreds and hundreds" of hours into that first fundraiser between going to schools and churches to ask if they would participate.
The first year raised $300 and spiked to $3,000 the second year, according to Jewell.
"It's so heartwarming to see it become such a wonderful success," Jewell said.
Alley added how grateful she is for all the time, effort and soup donated by the restaurants.
"It's really nice to see everyone giving back to the community," Alley said.