BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - On a cold night in January, with the temperatures hovering above 30 degrees, there is nothing better than a bowl of hot soup. On Sunday Jan. 6, 2013, the Westminster Presbyterian Church held their fifth annual 12th Night of Soup contest.  

Members of the church and the community were invited to bring soup or pay a small admission fee and sample the food. All attendees voted on the best soup and the winner was recognized by having their name engraved on a plaque.

Longtime member of the church Abby Christie has run the fundraiser for the past four years. She volunteers and assists with numerous activities at the church because it’s the right thing to do, she said.  

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“We love this church,” she said.

Christie said the event has been well-received in the community and each year there are different soups in the contest.

“It’s a phenomenal experience,” she said. “It’s a way to get to meet people. And where can you go to dinner for $8?”

Nursery School Director at the church Carol Cunningham has been coming to the event since its inception and said it’s a lot of fun. This year was her second time making a soup and she went simple this time with chicken noodle.

Cunningham even tried pickle soup, which she said tasted quiet good. She added she usually likes all of the soups, except the spicy ones.

“I think it’s a great family event because some of these younger kids are trying stuff they wouldn’t try at home,” she said.

Anita Bamford and her family, who live in Summit, started attending the fundraiser five years ago when they saw a sign for it as they were taking their son, Jack, to swim practice at Berkeley Aquatic. Bamford said they decided to come because she thought it would be good for the kids to try new soups and eat healthy.

Since then it has become a tradition and they go every year. Also, for the first time they made a soup in the contest: Jack’s pickle surprise.

“I think it’s a great event,” she said.

In addition to the savory soups, there is also a bake sale.  For the first time, the proceeds from the bake sale benefitted the youth program.

“The soup contest is good because everyone gets together,” said Youth Director Oshaira Pichardo.  

The types of soup available included potato cheese, gramp’s famous clam chowder, creamy butternut squash, coconut carrot soup, roasted squash and carrot, potato leak, hearty chicken soup, Minnesota chili, chicken mushroom, potato mushroom barley, Jack’s pickle surprise, wild rice and ground beef stew, cheese and corn chowder with bacon, egg lemon, roasted carrot with ginger, broccoli and cheese, corn chowder with bacon, chicken noodle, sausage orzo, and beef and barley.