First Corinthian Baptist Church opened its doors and its pizza boxes to hundreds.
The buzz of a haircutter momentarily drowned out the Super Bowl for Ron Maxton, who was six months overdue for a trim.
"What happened?" he yelled.
"That was a TOUCHDOWN," someone shouted back.
Endless pizza, hotdogs and fried chicken. Big screens. Hundreds of friends. Raffles. And free haircuts. The First Corinthian Baptist Church of Harlem opened up their chapel —once the historic tiered Regent Theater —to the hungry, the homeless, and football fiends at their 11th annual Super Bowl party.
"The Super Bowl is a time when people gather, in love, family, and friends," said the Rev. Kim Arango. "It's a really big deal in America. It's a holiday occasion. This is just an opportunity for us to be love-in-action."
Some kids were scooting under tables and converging on the cupcake platters, while others with football dreams lined up on a couch to watch every minute of the action.
Kenny Newton, 13, said he is rooting for the Patriots, and mildly likes Tom Brady, but genuinely prefers the Giants and Odell Beckham Jr. He wants to be a wide receiver, too.
"This started out as just a church event, just the guys from the church getting together for some football, but Rev. [Mike] Walrond decided to get more inclusive, open it up for everyone," said volunteer Austin Bonds, 28.
The church owes the explosive growth of its congregation, from 300 to 10,000 in ten years, to non-traditional events like this football party. More and more people every year from local shelters and the streets come for the warm atmosphere and the impressive spread of food.
"We've probably served 350 people already," Bonds said at 7 p.m. "Some went home —we gave them free whole pizzas to take."
A lot of people can't afford to host Super Bowl parties, let alone go to the game, and this is the ideal alternative, said Carol Ann Williams. "When you don't have money, you give service," she said.
The mission is to transform lives through generosity and good cheer said the Rev. Leslie Segars, who had once been homeless.
"We're living our mantra —live, love, serve. It's a way to give back, and it's exciting," she said as cheers rang out throughout the church.
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