'Soupfest' a delicious hit of an event

By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Vernon/Rockville - posted Fri., Nov. 8, 2013
Rockville High School Interact club students Valeria Luque (left) and Nancy Maldonado serve some roasted chestnut butternut soup at the annual Vernon Soupfest on Nov. 7. Photos by Steve Smith.
Rockville High School Interact club students Valeria Luque (left) and Nancy Maldonado serve some roasted chestnut butternut soup at the annual Vernon Soupfest on Nov. 7. Photos by Steve Smith.

The Annual Vernon SoupFest took place at the St. Bernard's Church Hall in Rockville on Nov. 7. Six soups, created by local fire departments, were on hand, as well as side dishes, appetizers and dessert.

The food is all provided free of charge, but attendees are encouraged to take part in the raffles and silent auctions, which have made the event a successful fundraiser for the Cornerstone Foundation. “It's good publicity, but we also raise funds,” said Cornerstone Foundation President Angela Atwater, adding that the event usually generates close to $10,000.

Atwater thanked the numerous volunteers who made the event possible, including several members of the Rockville Rotary, as well as students from the Rockville High School and South Windsor High School Interact Clubs.

Ellington's Crystal Lake Fire House took the Judges' Award for their lasagna soup, created by Bryan Harvell. Judges were chefs Al Bauer and Joan Zwick. Harvell said the recipe was actually a recipe handed down from his great-great grandmother, and that Crystal Lake has been a part of the event for the past three years.

The People's Choice Award went to The Ambulance Corps' roasted butternut chestnut soup.

The East of the River Explorers provided a “Sunday soup,” while the VFD 541 team served up a spicy “fire house chili.” Vernon Rescue 441 also brought a butternut soup, but added grilled chicken instead of chestnuts.

“The Cornerstone Foundation has been a beacon in the greater Vernon area for more than 30 years,” Atwater said. “They provide services to the needy, including food, clothing and shelter. Most of all, they care. They care about everybody who comes through the door.”

“It's because of people like you, that we are even in existence,” Cornerstone Executive Director Helen Syriac told volunteers and supporters.

Three people who have used Cornerstone's services spoke about how it changed their lives. Diana Christian, who now works at Cornerstone as one of its cooks, said she was taken into the shelter on more than one occasion. “They took me off the streets, not once, not twice, but several times,” she said. “Why they never gave up on me, I'm still not even sure, but I thank God every single day that they did.”

Christian shared how she struggled with alcoholism, but volunteering at Cornerstone led to getting a cooking certification, which led to her job, which, in turn helped her see that she could inspire others, and gave her more purpose. “I owe my life – every second, every minute, every hour of every day – to Cornerstone,” she said. “There is help to be had, and my rock has been, and is, at Cornerstone.”

Atwater said the event has evolved over the years. The soups were first provided by local restaurants, but then they had the idea to get fire houses involved. “They donate their food and their time,” Atwater said. “They come and set up, and stay and clean the dishes. They're really great. They like doing community events.”

Emcee Paul Sheridan called Cornerstone and the volunteers amazing. “We have people who volunteer their time, without any expectation of any financial return, and give of themselves to help others come back to where they need to be,” Sheridan said.

Atwater said this year's crowd, more than 200, was the biggest yet. “Last year we were building,” she said. “This year was like, 'Wow! I'm very happy with it.”

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