This time of year usually calls for ghosts and goblins, witches and spiders. But for the It's Spooky to Be Hungry food drive, there's nothing scary about this time of year.
Robert Florie, 10, with the Columbia County Boy Scouts Pack 643 picks up canned foods at a home in the Rivershyre neighborhood during last fall's food drive It's Spooky to be Hungry.
Photo by Chris Thelen
Started 11 years ago in a few neighborhoods in Columbia County, the annual food drive benefiting the Golden Harvest Food Bank in Augusta now includes more than 250 collection sites in 10 Augusta-area counties.
Collections are traditionally held the Saturday before Halloween and in conjunction with the national Make a Difference Day.
However, the fall break at schools has expanded the collection to the weekend before the regularly scheduled Oct. 22 collection.
"We now have Spooky collections taking place throughout October in neighborhoods, schools, businesses, faith communities and civic organizations," Publicity Chairwoman Marsha Shlaer said. "We were both amazed and delighted by the tremendous leap in It's Spooky to Be Hungry's growth last year. We grew significantly by every measure."
A total of 158 neighborhoods participated in last year's drive, with 22,100 potential houses taking part in the event.
Non-neighborhood collection sites - schools, businesses, churches and others - accounted for 81 collection sites.
"Our monetary donations increased a whopping 46 percent - we raised over $46,000," Shlaer said. "And we collected 40 percent more pounds of food - 86,000 pounds."
More than half of the 2,400 volunteers last year were children, an important factor in the annual drive.
"This is a real way to 'walk the walk' with your kids," said Evelyn Browne, the president of Big Changes Start Small Inc., the umbrella under which Spooky is run. "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."
When she made those comments several years ago, Browne also said the drive was an "opportunity to see how good people are. I find it very inspiring that you can experience, in a concrete way, that you can make a difference. Together we really make a significant difference to Golden Harvest."
The food and money collected last year provided more than 208,000 meals to the area's needy.
"It's Spooky to Be Hungry is now the largest grass roots effort in regional history - all due to the efforts of so many individuals, each reaching out to help make a difference," Shlaer said. "We have no major corporate donors; these totals reflect thousands and thousands of individuals each giving of themselves to help create a greater community of caring and compassion."
"Local need for food support is greater than ever, with increasing gas prices and changes in the local job market pushing even more families into financial crisis," Shlaer said. "Spooky continues to direct 100 percent of all the money we collect solely to the purchase of food. And with the purchasing power of our food distributor, Golden Harvest Food Bank, every dollar is multiplied by a factor of seven .''
This year, Spooky also plans to respond to the unique needs created by hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
"It's Spooky to Be Hungry is allocating 20 percent of our total collection to help offset the increased costs of helping to provide food support for evacuees who have relocated to our area," Shlaer said.
To find out whether your neighborhood is participating in this year's drive or to volunteer, call 733-8142. Information also is available at www.spookytobehungry.org.
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