Originally created 10/24/06

'Spooky' drive is way kids can help



It's October, when the weather turns chilly and children run around frantically deciding who or what to dress up like for Halloween.

While we're discussing costumes, parties and how much candy we'll get, there are some local residents focusing on more pressing issues, such as how they're going to feed their families.

It's Spooky to Be Hungry, a local grassroots food drive, provides that answer to some families. In its 15th year, the drive is one way students can fight something scarier than haunted houses - hunger.

Elizabeth Brown, 16, a junior at Augusta Preparatory Day School, has volunteered with Spooky since she heard about it from friends and teachers in the eighth grade.

"They said it was fun, and it was," Elizabeth said. "The best part was the interaction with others. It was cool spending a day with your friends and at the same time helping the community."

Lanisha Blount, 17, a senior at John S. Davidson Fine Arts School, said she started volunteering when her friend Chloe, who also is the founder's daughter, introduced her to it.

"We do it at the Red Cross, and it's a big deal at my school to bring in cans for spirit points. I volunteer for Spooky, No. 1 for the cause and No. 2 for the community, the fun moments, ya know?"

Though its founder, Evelyn Browne, has recently moved from Augusta, this project continues to thrive.

Seeing tremendous growth in recent years, the food drive operates in more than 240 neighborhoods, schools, businesses and faith communities in nine local counties.

Last year, more than 2,600 volunteers (more than half of whom were kids and teens) came together in the one-day effort and collected 98,800 pounds of food and $56,000. All food and money is donated to the Golden Harvest Food Bank.

According to chief coordinator Vikki Blair Adkins, though canned food is always appreciated, monetary donations can go a bit further because of the special purchasing power that Golden Harvest has (for every $1 they receive, they can buy $7 worth of canned food).

The donations in any form are more than welcome, said Mike Firmin, the executive director of Golden Harvest since its founding in 1982.

"You can't imagine what it's like to be without food, but many people, many families, don't have enough food to feed their children. That's why Spooky is so great. It involves children volunteers who help feed other children," he said. "Almost always the recipients are glad. Of course they're going to be happy."

This year's collection day is Saturday. Students can participate in several ways, including volunteering by distributing fliers, collecting food or picking the food up from the collectors and delivering it to the weigh-in at a central location in the neighborhood.

Later in the day, Golden Harvest volunteers pick up the food in trucks. However you do it, his is an awesome service opportunity that you can do with all your friends, an interesting way to meet your neighbors, and "a neat thing to do with your family," Ms. Adkins said.

I've been volunteering with Spooky for several years, and I could not agree more.

For more information, check out the drive's Web site at www. spookytobehungry.org.

Maryclaire Regan, 15, is a sophomore at Augusta Preparatory Day School.