SOUPer Bowl back for seconds

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After raising better than $30,000 for local charitable organizations last year, the LOOP United Way SOUPer Bowl is back for seconds.

The second annual event – with LOOP as its title sponsor – takes place Saturday, Jan. 24, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., in the parking lot of the Courtyard Marriot at 142 Library Drive in Houma.

Admission is $5 for patrons to taste as much as they would like.

Although the local chapter of the United Way does not require every booth to cook something different, executive director Alina Merlos said variety is what made the event so great last year including many different types of soups, gumbos and chilies.

A panel of judges will dole out first, second and third place awards, and the patrons will vote for the Fan Favorite. Last year, Coastal Commerce Bank won both the judges’ first place award as well as the Fan Favorite award with a seafood gumbo that Merlos called “out of this world.”

“We’re certainly looking forward to defending our honor. But like all else, now Coastal Commerce’s gumbo team has a target on its back. Last year was the first year of the competition, so there was no standard, but now we set a high standard, and everyone is going to be shooting and aiming to reach for what we’ve achieved. It’s like all guns are pointed at us,” joked Mark Bourg, Coastal Commerce Bank vice president and Larose office branch manager.

Bourg wouldn’t reveal whether his gumbo team will keep the same recipe for this year’s competition, only promising enough fresh ingredients to create a rich, tasty gumbo again.

“We cut no corners when we put one together,” he said.

With both first place honors, Coastal Commerce Bank took home two pretty unique trophies – to say the least – and competitors will be vying for the same trophies this year.

“We wanted to do something really different, so one of the companies that works with us did a mock up of the Vince Lombardi trophy. Instead of having the full football on the top, they cut it in half and put a soupspoon in it. The fan favorite trophy was a little different. It was a gumbo pot, a tiny one. I think everybody that participated last year wants to participate this year cause they want to win those trophies,” Merlos said.

Last year, Marriot came in second with a she-crab soup, and the Williams Company came in third with a chili. They were among slightly more than 20 competitors, and Merlos said more teams have already signed up for the 2015 competition.

“Right now, we have room for probably about 35 or so teams, but we have room to expand, so whoever wants to sign up, they can,” Merlos said.

Companies may sign up at, or by calling (985) 879-2461 and a United Way representative can fax or email the forms. The participation cost is $200, and teams can be comprised of up to four members.

Instead of simply donating to the United Way, Merlos said the event is a great way for companies to become familiar with who exactly they are donating to.

“It was a lot of business people cooking the soups, and they got to sit and chat with some of the people from the agencies. I think sometimes it’s a good way to connect those two,” Merlos explained. “Say they give to the Boy Scouts or the Council on Aging, and you kind of have a good idea what they do, but you sit down with the actual agency, and they get to chat a little bit. It brings you more of a personal face. You hear about the kids who couldn’t afford scouting, and through your United Way donations, that’s what it’s going to.”

All proceeds go toward the 26 agencies that represent the South Louisiana Chapter of the United Way – representing the parishes of Terrebonne, Lafourche, Assumption and St. Mary – and local Boy and Girl Scout chapters and the Councils on Aging are just a small sampling of where the money goes.

“It’ll go to places like the St. Vincent de Paul Pharmacy, which gives life-saving medications to people who are either underinsured or have no insurance. It’ll go toward programs like Meals on Wheels, helping families in domestic violence situations through The Haven and then also we provide assistance to a couple of different programs that help with cancer,” Merlos said, naming some of the agencies involved.

The local chapter of the United Way also pushes a literacy program through Chabert Medical Center entitled Reach Out and Read.

Additionally, member agencies will have the opportunity to raise funds with a bake sale at the event, and those with soup, gumbo or chili left over can sell it to patrons in take-home containers to raise more money. There will also likely to raffles with donated items to raise even more.

“For the charitable purpose, it’s a good thing to see people out there and to see so many teams, and there was a good crowd,” Bourg said. “It’s an honor to be able to give back to the community whether it be myself personally or through the bank to help out any cause out there.”

Coastal Commerce Bank employees (pictured from left) John Rogers, Kim Elfert, Brandy Markus and Mark Bourg hold their trophies in celebration of winning the 2014 judges’ top prize as well as the Fan Favorite award. The bank will try to defend its titles this year. Tickets to the event are $5 and include all the soup, gumbo and chili you can eat.