When Evelyn Browne and a couple of her friends started a food drive in Columbia County eight years ago, they never in their wildest dreams expected fame, or fortune, or even recognition for their effort.
They just wanted to feed the hungry and build a community.
Have they ever. From its humble beginnings in three subdivisions, Its Spooky to be Hungry has grown into the largest single one-day food drive for the Golden Harvest Food Bank.
Last year alone, Spookys 1,000 volunteers in Columbia, Richmond and Aiken counties collected enough food and money to provide 90,000 meals. Just as importantly, those volunteers got to know their neighbors, and the world got a healing touch just when it needed it - barely a month after Sept. 11.
Spooky is already a shout-if-from-the-rooftops success in our community, an honest to goodness miracle in the making from a bunch of dedicated volunteers.
Now, at last, folks in the rest of the country are starting to take notice.
USA Weekend - which, like The News-Times, is distributed with the Sunday Augusta Chronicle - in todays edition includes the equivalent of an honorable mention for Spookys effort. Its part of recognition for Make a Difference Day, which fortuitously fell last year on the same day as Spookys annual drive.
The one-day food drive (covered) 80 neighborhoods garnered 35,000 pounds of food and $18,000 for the Golden Harvest Food Bank, a regional food bank serving 23 counties, says USA Weekends note. (It appears on page 13 of todays edition.) The magazine points out that Make a Difference Day is a celebration of neighbors helping neighbors.
That is what Spooky is all about. That Spooky has grown so much is entirely due to an astounding level of community support and spirit, Browne says. This award is in recognition not only of those who are directly involved in organizing Spooky, but is honoring everyone, volunteers and donors, who have contributed to Spookys success.
And its also a credit to Browne, a remarkably kind, humble lady whose generous spirit led her to make a difference in her community - and she has.
The pace of planning continues to increase for the second annual Red, White & Blue Veterans Celebration, to be held Memorial Day weekend, Saturday, May 25, in the big field behind the Evans Kroger.
Money to pay for the event, which concludes with a fireworks show, comes from donations in the community. A small amount of money from the hotel-motel tax will help pay for the event starting next year, but this year the funding again is coming only from generous businesses and citizens.
As the big day approaches, that generosity needs to speed up. More money is needed to get the event off the ground, so the committee organizing the celebration - including me - is asking for community help in raising the funds needed.
All donations are tax-deductible, with checks payable to Columbia County Arts, Inc. For more information, call 868-3458.
This years Memorial Day celebration is significant because it could be the last time the event - or any event - will be held in the big field in Evans. Doctors Hospital, which owns the property, will eventually build a new facility on the property.
The hospital has been gracious in allowing access to the land, at no charge, for all who want to use it. Seeing the field one day disappear under more concrete and asphalt will be a pity.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to barrypaschal@ yahoo.com, or call 863-6165, extension 106.)
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