As many local folks are aware, October isnt just for trick-or-treating any more. It also has become a time when hundreds of volunteers go door to door, collecting donations for Golden Harvest Food Bank as part of the Its Spooky to be Hungry campaign.
Under the leadership of Evelyn Browne of Evans, Spooky has grown to be one of the largest food drives for Golden Harvest.
There is more, however, to helping out those in need than providing food for them. Sometimes you have to help clean them up, too.
No, this isnt the lead-in to some joke about smelly street people. Its a sneak preview of a new program Browne conceived, along with other volunteers (including me) of Big Changes Start Small, Inc., the organization that oversees Spooky.
The fledgling program is called Hope Soap. And in the words of an old country guitarist who once tried to describe a one-note bass line to me, its so simple its complicated.
The idea is to gather toiletries, particularly from those who frequently travel to hotels that supply little bars of soap and little bottles of shampoo. Donors will be asked save up those individual-size containers, and drop them off at collection sites around the community.
Volunteers would periodically collect the donations. Other volunteers would sort the items, and bag them according to their potential user: adult male, adult female, teen male or female, or child. The bags would then be delivered to agencies such as shelters for abused women and children or the Salvation Army, and facilities that temporarily house the families of local hospital patients, such as the Ronald McDonald House or the Shirley Badke Burn Retreat.
Simple. But there are complications.
Namely, Evelyn Browne is just one person, and she has her hands full with Spooky. Hope Soap needs a volunteer or two with the time and the ability to help set up collection sites, and then to occasionally empty the bins. Still more volunteers are needed to periodically help sort the soap, shampoo and other items.
Last but not least, donors - of not just toiletries, but money - are needed to help get the astonishingly simple yet sorely needed project off the ground.
The News-Times has already agreed to be one of the collection points for Hope Soap. We love to have visitors at our Evans office - and well especially appreciate it if those visitors bring a photo of a recent vacation, and drop off a few free hotel toiletries for Hope Soap while theyre here.
Grant really lost?
As a letter today by Blank Foundation spokesman Kerry Traubert points out, there may be more to the story of Augusta Urban Ministrys recent loss of a summer-program grant than we initially were told.
Traubert admits Augusta Urban Ministries couldnt get the $40,000 it received last year after Blank officials discovered AUM was offering Bible study to students participating in the Kids Con-nection summer program.
But as Traubert also points out, AUM had never been promised it would get the grant this year in the first place. The grant in 2002 was for one year, with no guarantee the money would be available again for Kids Connection.
That runs just a little counter to the portrayal by AUM: that it had been counting on the money, which was then suddenly snatched away by heartless Blank Foundation officials when they heard about the Biblical connection of Kids Connection.
In any event, community outrage from Christians ensured that AUM had more than enough money to carry on Kids Connection, with Bible classes intact. But I sure hope AUM wasnt overplaying the episode just to get sympathy donations. If so, itll be a little tougher to blame it all on Blank next year, or to find a bogeyman bad enough to rouse that kind of cash.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to bpaschal at newstimesonline.com.)
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