Credit unions, ACAP raise more than $15,000 in soup donations

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — A nearly two-month local challenge to collect soup as part of the national Souper Bowl of Caring campaign came to an end recently with members of the Aroostook Chapter of Maine Credit Unions collecting more than $15,000 in soup and cash donations to deliver to food cupboards and some pantries in Aroostook County.

“The donations from the community for this program have been tremendous. County folks never fail to step up and go above and beyond when it comes to supporting efforts that help others in need. It’s one of the things that makes Aroostook such a special place to live. We are so thankful to our communities, and our employees, for making this drive so ‘Souper’,” said The County Federal Credit Union President and CEO Ryan Ellsworth.

The Aroostook Chapter of Maine Credit Unions and the Aroostook County Action Program recently completed the SOUPer Bowl of Caring food drive, raising more than $15,000 worth of soup and monetary donations to benefit local food pantries. Representing their organizations are, from left: David Desjardins, president/CEO, Acadia Federal Credit Union; Susan G. Whitehead, president/CEO, NorState Federal Credit Union; Ryan Ellswort­h, president/CEO, The County Federal Credit Union; and Heidi Rackliffe of The Aroostook County Action Program. (Courtesy of Aroostook County Action Program)

In total, credit unions collected $15,570 in soup can and cash donations at their 16 locations around The County since the first of January. Those donations will directly benefit people in Aroostook County who face food insecurity.

“So many people in our communities are struggling and having to choose between food and other necessities. The Community Cupboard Souper Bowl of Caring showcased the generosity of our communities to help people in need,” said Norstate Federal Credit Union President and CEO Sue Whitehead.

“The people of Aroostook County continue to amaze me with their generosity.  When they were asked to help us feed those in need, they stepped up to bring in cans of soup and helped the credit unions far surpass its expectations for this campaign. Thank you,” said Acadia Federal Credit Union President and CEO Dave Desjardins.

Acadia, NorState and The County Federal Credit Unions tackle hunger all year long as part of the Maine Credit Unions’ overarching Ending Hunger Campaign. They made the collective decision to participate in the Souper Bowl of Caring as part of that larger effort.

“It is very rewarding once again, to see all three credit unions, all headquartered in Aroostook County, continuing a long tradition of collaboration on important community projects,” said Dan Bagley of CFCU, a member of the Aroostook Chapter of Credit Unions’ Tackle Hunger Committee.

Tammy Clavette from the Aroostook County Action Program visited the Madawaska branch of NorState Federal Credit Union on March 4 to pick up the office’s donation for the Souper Bowl Challenge Food Drive. The branch collected more than 1,000 cans and over $450 in monetary donations, which will help local community cupboards and food pantries. From left are Kim Dionne, Karen Bourgoin and Dennis Voter of Team NorState; Tammy Clavette; and Elaine Clavette and Kim Hebert of Team NorState.

“This community is so supportive of one another, and the Aroostook Chapter of Credit Unions is happy to facilitate bringing people together to impact the communities we serve. The success of this program definitely fits the credit union mission of ‘people helping people’ and we are all very pleased with the overwhelming support the program has received,” he said.

The Souper Bowl of Caring began as a grassroots movement in a South Carolina church in 1990 to collect cans of soup during the Big Game. That first year saw almost $6,000 in donations, and has continued to grow into a multimillion-dollar national annual campaign. Last year, the Souper Bowl of Caring collected soup in excess of $8 million.

Although the campaign is completed nationally, each local initiative keeps its donations within its own community. Which is why, when Aroostook County credit unions decided to take on the event, they partnered with Aroostook County Action Program to help coordinate the local distribution of their collections.

Nine community cupboards and 11 food pantries throughout 15 Aroostook County communities received the donations. Recipient towns included Caribou, Presque Isle, Fort Fairfield, Houlton, Washburn, Perham, Mapleton, Fort Kent, St. Francis, Mars Hill, St. Agatha, Madawaska, Ashland, Van Buren and Eagle Lake.

“Hunger doesn’t discriminate,” said ACAP Program Supervisor Heidi Rackliffe. “It can strike working families, the unemployed, seniors living on a fixed income, and children at any time due to a number of unforeseen circumstances. That’s why continued and ongoing ways to address food security such as this Souper Bowl of Caring are critical to helping to ensure that nobody in our area goes hungry.”

From the first moment Aroostook County credit unions opened their doors in the New Year until Feb. 22, community members could donate cans of soup at any branch. In lieu of soup donations, branches also accepted cash donations, with each $1 representing an additional can of soup.

Throughout the collection period, organizers encouraged donors to take a “Selfless Selfie” to share on their credit union’s social media pages using the hashtag (#) #CUtacklehunger. People and groups posted dozens of photos.

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