Once again, It's Spooky to be Hungry collected record donations in its efforts to scare away hunger in the Augusta area, organizers announced Thursday.
"The nonprofit organizations in this area have been greatly challenged by the reality of hurricanes Katrina and Rita,'' said Evelyn Browne, the founder and a co-chairwoman of It's Spooky to be Hungry.
Though the Augusta area responded to the national crisis with generosity, people in the area did not forget about their neighbors in need, Browne told the crowd of about 80 volunteers at the official weigh-in at the Golden Harvest Food Bank.
A record 2,600 volunteers from throughout the Augusta area collected more than 97,000 pounds of nonperishable food and more than $52,000 that will go to benefit the needy, said Debbie Johnson, a co-chairwoman of the food drive.
Last year, 2,400 volunteers to the Spooky drive collected more than 86,000 pounds of food and more than $46,000, according to the organization's Web site.
"In light of Katrina, I would like you to think hard about what those numbers say about the work you did and the generosity of our community," Browne told the crowd. "I could not be more delighted to share with you that despite Katrina, we have increased our bottom line by every measure."
Columbia County residents donated more than 52,000 pounds of food and more than $31,000, Browne said.
"Columbia County, where Spooky began, continues as the leading source of Spooky volunteers, collection sites and donations," Browne said in an e-mail Saturday. "We are deeply grateful for the commitment and generosity of our Columbia County Spooky supporters."
Donations to Golden Harvest by national companies are down about 15 percent since Katrina, said Michael J. Firmin, the executive director of Golden Harvest Food Bank.
"The success of Spooky is absolutely critical to the food bank as (we) go into Thanksgiving and Christmas," Firmin said. "We were hoping beyond hope that we could surpass (last year)."
"It's a fearful thing to be hungry," Firmin told the crowd. "Because of the efforts you have made there will be a little less fear and a lot more joy in our community."
The food and money generated will amount to 237,500 meals, Johnson said.
It's Spooky to be Hungry is an independent, all-volunteer, one-day, neighborhood-based food drive in its 11th year in the Augusta area. This year, Spooky chapters were opened in 12 southeastern cities, including Atlanta; Orlando, Fla.; Fayetteville, N.C.; and Jackson, Miss., Browne said.
Golden Harvest distributes food through a network of charities in 25 counties throughout the Augusta area.
"I don't know anyone in their lifetime who is going to have the opportunity to do anything big," Browne said. "But here we see we can all do something small. And when we do those small things and take the opportunity with each other to do them together, look at what we can do."
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