Youth at South Aiken Presbyterian Church want to score a "touchdown" against hunger in the Souper Bowl of Caring Sunday.
Their goal is to collect enough canned goods to circle their sanctuary. To mark their progress, a giant football mounted on a bulletin board "gridiron" moves from one end of the field, marked "hunger," to the other a 100 yards away. Last year they made it to the 24-yard line.
South Aiken youth will also hold soup pots at church doors to collect cash donations. Their efforts and those of people at more than 30 other area churches were part of a campaign in the United States and Canada last year that raised $3.1 million for needy families.
Youth at another Presbyterian church, Spring Valley in Columbia, came up with the idea in 1990. "This is the neat thing - each church decides which charity to give their money or canned goods to," said Carla Cloud of South Aiken Presbyterian.
Organizers in Columbia never touch the donations. They only ask participating churches to call in a total.
South Aiken will give its cans and donations to Area Churches Together Serving in Aiken. ACTS will use the money for its general fund, sorely depleted by this winter's high utility bills, said Marge Glauser, executive director.
The agency, a network of 73 churches, budgeted $3,000 a month to keep power on for families needing assistance. Requests for assistance have shot up to $8,000 in January, and the month isn't over, Ms. Glauser said. "We are going to run out of money the way I have been going through it."
The Souper Bowl funds about 10 percent of The Master's Table Soup Kitchen on Fenwick Street. The kitchen, operated by Golden Harvest Food Bank, serves more than 230 meals a day year round to men, women and children in downtown Augusta, said Chris Naylor, communications manager. "The more (money) raised, the more we can feed the hungry."
Contributions from St. Mark United Methodist Church will benefit The Master's Table. Youth will use pots and pans to collect donations before going to a member's house to watch the New York Giants and the Baltimore Ravens in that other bowl, the Super Bowl in Tampa, Fla.
The Souper Bowl has become a tradition at Grace United Methodist Church in North Augusta, said Polly Hargrove, youth director.
This year the collection will benefit Community Ministries of North Augusta, an alliance of several churches. Grace, however, does not limit individual donations to $1, as organizers suggest, she said. "A lot of people give more. People find it appealing that it does not go through an organization but goes directly to the ministries."
With a portion of the proceeds, the youth from Grace buy items listed on a shopping list provided by the ministries. That way, they can be actively involved in restocking, she said. "We make it a game between groups of the kids."
The Souper Bowl helps the needy, but it also benefits youth, said Brandon Fulmer, director of youth ministries. "Any time you can do something to help them realize there are hungry people out there and they can help, it benefits them."
For more information, call (800) 358-7687 or visit the Web site www.soupberbowl.org.
Reach Virginia Norton at (706) 823-3336 or firstname.lastname@example.org.