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Cups of Compassion

2017 Cups of Compassion flyer

2017 Cups of Compassion flyer (espanol)

BIG Vision Foundation

Cups of Compassion is now a project under the umbrella of the BIG Vision Foundation.

Since 2011, Berkshire Baseball, now BIG Vision Foundation has been involved in this community event.  Dan Clouser with his team and staff join him to help cook and hand out hamburgers, hotdogs and chips for anyone in need.  Every year, this event changes the hearts of people in a BIG way, showing them the significance and impact a little effort can have on the lives around them. These acts of kindness can mobilize our community to collectively work to revitalize our beloved city of Reading. 


Cups of Compassion

Article from Berks + Catalyst

Gesture of Kindness Evolves Into Community Event
By Dawn Heinbach, Editor

If you happened to be in downtown Reading on the gray, rainy morning of December 22, you couldn’t help but notice a large group of people gathered at Fifth and Penn streets. There were numerous tents covering rows of long tables that held cardboard boxes. Tables and chairs had been assembled and people were serving plates of hot food. Christmas music filled the air. Clearly, something was happening. But what?
Businesses and individuals united that day, donating their time and talents from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. to serve food and distribute clothing and other items to those in need. This was the 6th annual Cups of Compassionevent.
Event founder Laura Cooper, Liberty Law Group, said that it began as the simplest act of seeing a need and filling it.
“I have to start with the fact that my mother was the most compassionate person I’ve ever met in my life,” Cooper said. “She died at the very young age of 48 from bone cancer. But she instilled in me a great love and compassion for those less fortunate in the world… There are many of us that just love the holidays. We enjoy it with our families, we like to share time with our children. But to ignore the needy around us… the holidays can be a very risk-filled and trying time. It’s not a joyous time.”
Cooper’s law office was located on the fourth floor of 505 Penn St. She explained that in early December 2010, she would look out of the large windows onto the street below, and see people who appeared to be homeless or with mental health challenges – some just hanging out, others picking through the garbage cans; most were inadequately dressed for the weather.
“I remember the day I said to my staff: I’m going to bring in a pot of soup tomorrow; I’m just going to stand out on the sidewalk and I’m going to serve it,” Cooper said.
The staff liked the idea and decided to join her. They spread the word to some of the law firm’s contacts, and a dozen other businesses joined in their efforts to feed the needy. That first event had approximately 40 volunteers and 12 participating businesses or organizations. Volunteers from the Downtown Improvement District (DID) donated tables, emptied garbage cans, and cleaned up after that first event, and continue to assist with these tasks every year.
According to Cooper, Cups of Compassion has two powerful components. One, of course, is feeding the needy. The second is the fact that people are doing it together as a collective act.
Marketing of the event is not focused one particular individual or business, but rather on the collective act. This is how Cups of Compassion remains true to the spirit of giving at the holidays.
Cups of Compassion has grown each year. Committees comprised of volunteers were formed in January 2015 to work on the planning and other details of each event. This was the first year that both corners of Fifth and Penn Streets were utilized. Men’s, women’s, and children’s clothing was collected, but Cooper said that there are no specific guidelines as to what each group or individual can provide.
“When people ask what they should bring, we tell them to bring whatever they are inspired to bring,” Cooper said.
Some groups prepared food or offered prepackaged items – chili, chicken, snack items, and water were available. Under one tent, packs of socks were given away. The Community Health Center donated cloth bags that contained personal toiletries. Two animal-related businesses were present, donating portions of dog and cat food. Blankets were handed out.
Alyssa Koehler and Ana Ruiz, employees of NRG Home, Wyomissing, found out about the event through coworkers. They jumped at the chance to volunteer, and assisted with clothing distribution. Ruiz and Koehler both stressed the value of events like this.
“I think it’s important for anyone to give back, whether you have a lot or a little,” Koehler said. “It’s not a lot of hard work…just help them find what they’re looking for. If everyone would just volunteer a little bit of their time, the world would be a better place.”
“Our company donated 100 fleece blankets,” she continued. “Those were gone in about 10 minutes. To see how appreciative people are just for a blanket…breaks your heart. I wish we had more to give out.” 
Ruiz mirrored this sentiment. “These events bring awareness to people who don’t really think about [poverty]. It’s important to participate, it’s important to give back. People matter and they have stories to tell,” she said.
Some of those stories are harsh. Reflecting on last year’s event, Cooper remembers noticing a family standing at the periphery as the event was drawing to a close. She approached and asked if she could help them. They asked if there was a coat for their mentally ill son; the family was living in their car. All of the coats had been given out and when Cooper returned with the intent of offering her own coat, the family had already gone.
The possibility of hosting the event twice a year has been discussed, most likely in the spring. Many additional services, such as health screenings, could be offered in the warmer weather. The elderly, who are often intolerant of colder temperatures, and children would also be more apt to participate during that time.
People in the neighboring cities of Pottstown and Lancaster have contacted Cooper, requesting guidance on starting their own Cups of Compassion events. One pot of soup has miraculously multiplied, covering Reading with kindness and spilling far beyond the boundaries of the city.

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