In the six years that the It's Spooky to Be Hungry food drive has been held, food donations have grown from 2,200 pounds to 46,000 pounds, and money contributions have soared from $1,020 to $24,840.
"There are lots of ways this program is enormous," said Barry Forde, associate director of Golden Harvest Food Bank, which is the benefactor of all food and money collected through the annual drive. "Spooky is the single largest food and fund drive for Golden Harvest."
The food drive was the idea of Evelyn Browne of Evans. A clinical psychologist by training, Browne determined years ago that such a drive would bring the community together in an effort that also would help the area's needy.
"We are helping, at least a little bit, to meet the needs of the hungry in our area," Browne said, adding that Spooky is now part of Big Changes Start Small Inc., an organization that plans to expand beyond the food drive. "This food drive has been such a huge community builder, and it brings people together."
Spooky has expanded to nearly 100 neighborhoods, including 10 to 15 schools, businesses and faith communities. What began with just three neighborhoods in 1995 and a handful of volunteers now involves more than 1,000 people, half of which are children who participate in the collection.
"We are committed to remaining an all volunteer base for as long as we can," Browne said, adding that all the money contributed goes directly to Golden Harvest for the purchase of food, not administrative costs. "We have an opportunity to see how good people are."
The drive will be conducted Oct. 25, and always is held the Saturday before Halloween.
"I find it very inspiring that you can experience, in a concrete way, that you can make a difference," Browne said. "Together we really make a significant difference to Golden Harvest."
Forde said that though the food donations offer immediate help to the area's hungry, money donations allow the food bank to purchase $7 worth of food for every $1 donated.
"It's a much better deal for us to use money to purchase the food," Forde said, adding that Golden Harvest will distribute 9 million pounds of food this year. "On the other hand, when we get food, it is truly that, a donation. And, we are always grateful for anything we get."
Last year's 46,000 pounds of food collected through Spooky allowed Golden Harvest to distribute 34,500 meals to people in a 25-county service area. Forde pointed out that all donations made through Spooky and similar drives remain in the area, never leaving the local community.
Browne said she is looking to expand her food drive in areas currently not represented. People interested in heading a drive in their neighborhood or community can call 863-5863 for more details.
"We just need one person to help organize the drive," Browne said. "We provide the support and containers and pick up the food. The bottom line is this is fun. People can experience that to do good doesn't mean you have to give up. This is a real way to 'walk the walk' with your kids.
"As a parent, I feel like I have the opportunity to work and live the things I think are important, and I feel like my child is living that with me."
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