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Charity out of the soup as hotel rips up bill

Nov 29 2011

The Fairmont Empress hotel has ripped up a $10,000 bill that threatened to eat one-quarter of the profits from the Souper Bowls of Hope charity for at-risk and street youth.

Former Victoria city councillor Helen Hughes, founder of the Souper Bowls charity, met with Empress general manager Martin Leclerc Monday after a story in the Times Colonist Sunday.

After the meeting, Hughes announced that the entire proceeds from this month's charity gala will be donated to the Victoria Youth Empowerment Society, as originally intended, thanks to the support from the Empress.

She credited the hotel with helping the charity raise almost $500,000 over more than a decade.

It's a clean response to a messy misunderstanding between the iconic hotel and the well-respected former councillor that surfaced during the weekend.

The Fairmont Empress had told the charity before the event that while it had supported Souper Bowls of Hope for 13 years, it had decided to extend its support to other charities. That meant it could not sponsor Souper Bowls to the same degree as in the past.

The confusion had consisted in the timing of the decreased sponsorship. The hotel was of the mind that it applied to this year. Charity organizers thought it would not hit until next year, organizing committee member Marie Zirk said.

Souper Bowls held its 14th annual fundraiser for the society at the Empress on Nov. 8. Guests paid $25 for soup and a handmade bowl. Some bowls, signed by such celebrities as Elton John, Selena Gomez and Michael Bublé, were auctioned.

This year's official total has yet to be determined. Last year, the charity raised $40,000. It hopes to continue to host the event in the elegant Crystal Ballroom of the Empress next year, but a contract has yet to be negotiated, Zirk said.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

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