Without much fanfare or publicity, a county food bank started its own drive to scare up food for the hungry this Halloween at the same time as the regional It's Spooky to Be Hungry drive.
Columbia County Cares Food Pantry, an ecumenical, nonprofit agency that provides temporary assistance to low-income families and seniors, started its Halloween-theme drive called Halloween for the Hungry.
"We do not want to compete with Spooky, we just wanted to have our own," pantry director Lou Reda said.
Donations to It's Spooky to Be Hungry are delivered to Golden Harvest Food Bank in Augusta, which distributes the food to food banks and charities throughout the Augusta area. Though Golden Harvest provides a greater selection of food choices, Reda said his organization must pay 14 to 16 cents per pound for the items. Its drive provides food for free.
In its first year, Columbia County Cares set up collection points for its drive at Marc Yount's Tire and Auto Works in Evans and at Crown Bank in Martinez, and also received food from drives at North Columbia Elementary School and through the county's Trick or Treat So Others Can Eat event, Reda said.
The returns were modest, with about 60 pounds of food and about $300 donated to the drive at the drop-off points. The Trick or Treat event generated about 650 pounds of food. Reda did not have an amount generated from the school.
"During this time of the season, we have the hardest time keeping the shelves stocked," Reda said of the decision to go ahead with the drive.
Michael J. Firmin, the executive director of Golden Harvest, said the Spooky drive has a history of accountability in the community and that he was troubled by Columbia County Cares' decision to go ahead with its drive.
"I have always felt since the food bank was founded 24 years ago that our whole community needed to work together," Firmin said. "And I wanted Golden Harvest to be an agent of unity because a person is hungry whether he is in Grovetown or McBean or in Aiken."
The Spooky collection, in its 12th year, is Golden Harvest's largest food drive - but still brings in only about one-quarter of a one-month supply of food for the Augusta area, Firmin said. The food bank, which donated 10 million pounds of food between September 2005 and September 2006, relies most heavily on corporate donations to feed the hungry.
"We're absolutely delighted that we're making that type of impact and that we're getting the food into our region from the outside," he said.
All area food banks need to pull together to serve the needy, Firmin said.
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