‘Souper Day’ marks 25th anniversary
The 25th anniversary of New Bethany Ministries’ Souper Day event was held Oct. 18 at the Event Center at Blue. The annual event is a major fundraiser for the organization, which has impacted over 100,000 individuals over 31 years of operation. Thanks to the generosity of the Event Center at Blue, virtually 100 percent of the program’s proceeds go directly to New Bethany’s services.
The yearly event featured a modest soup and salad lunch, meant to focus on the almost 70,000 people who are food insecure in the Valley. With food programs, including one of the only Meal Centers open Monday-Friday and the only Food Pantry open Monday-Friday in the Valley, New Bethany Ministries serves almost 10 percent of the area’s food insecure population annually.
The Souper Day Program featured keynote speaker Peter L. Kern, chair of the Julius and Katheryn Hommer Foundation, a generous supporter of New Bethany Ministries. Kern’s long career in industry and health care administration led him to his current position in the local philanthropic community. His speech detailed the humble beginnings of his grandfather, and the realization via his grandfather at a young age that there is a distinct difference between being ready for a meal (i.e. “I’m starving – what’s for dinner?”) and truly “starving.”
Additionally, the program featured testimony from two program graduates, Jen and Ashley. Jen discussed her success after participating in New Bethany Ministries’ Restoration House Program, an 18-24-month transitional housing program in which the head of household must be enrolled in an educational program. The goals of the program are to have participants complete an educational degree, secure full-time employment and secure permanent housing.
Jen, after doing all three, is now thriving with her two children and her “dream job.” She commented at the end of her speech that she’ll “probably be sitting where [the audience] is this time next year” in order to give back to New Bethany.
The Restoration House Program will be defunded as of Sept. 30, 2017, due to HUD’s change of focus to the new Housing First Model. The program is one of eight transitional housing programs in the Lehigh Valley to be cut.
Ashley discussed her experiences as an 11-year-old child in the transitional housing program, as well as living in the permanent affordable housing program in New Bethany’s Wyandotte Apartments. Ashley grew up at New Bethany and came to work for the organization as a caretaker in her late teens. She now attends Kutztown University and is well on her way to graduation.
The event was made possible thanks to the generosity of many community partners, including the Event Center at Blue, Aesculap, and over 65 additional local businesses, companies, faith organizations, foundations and individuals.