May 12, 2018 9:58:42 PM
Jan Swoope - [email protected]
Aromas of a hearty vegetable beef soup lingered at the Loaves & Fishes Community Soup Kitchen Wednesday in Columbus. The last diner had departed and volunteers were busy making the kitchen clean for the next team scheduled to provide a meal for the hungry of Lowndes County. This is the work that will benefit from the Loaves & Fishes Community Soup Kitchen Festival of Flavors fundraiser set for 6-9 p.m. Friday June 1 at Lion Hills Center.
"We served over 25,000 meals last year," said Ann Sparkman, Loaves & Fishes co-vice president. She serves in that position with Cindy Wiygul. The ecumenical nonprofit ministry marks its 10th anniversary this year.
Excitement is running high for the June 1 event and its "Back to the Islands" theme, silent auction, food, live music and raffle drawings.
"This is our only fundraiser," said Loaves & Fishes President Pam Rhea. "We rely solely on donations and this fundraiser, and a few small grants. Without this, we could not stay in operation." Proceeds will help with year-round expenses including utilities and supplies.
Loaves & Fishes is an active network of almost two dozen churches and two banks combining efforts to provide nutritious meals from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, as well as designated Fridays, at 223 22nd St. N.
In 2017, the ministry began also distributing to-go sack lunches on Fridays to help individuals through the weekend. Community involvement is essential.
"We always need more churches, businesses and clubs willing to volunteer to provide meals on certain days," Sparkman said.
Community groups or Sunday School classes can also help by holding soup drives to collect Bear Creek soup packages for use on Souper Wednesdays. And items needed for sack lunches include bottled water, nutritious granola or breakfast bars, and Chef Boyardee products with easy-open lids, such as 40-ounce cans of spaghetti, lasagna or ravioli.
Sparkman and Wiygul expressed appreciation to volunteers, and to area businesses, organizations and individuals for willingly donating items for the upcoming gala's silent auction and raffle.
Auction items include original art from about 20 area artists, as well as numerous gift certificates and decorative pieces.
Three raffle prizes are offered: a Sundolphin Journey 10 SS fishing kayak, sponsored by the Columbus Bankers Association; a DJ1 Spark quadcopter drone, sponsored by Carl Hogan Automotive; and a Traeger pellet grill, sponsored by Military Hardware, First Baptist Church Men's Class and an anonymous donor. Raffle winners do not have to be present to win.
Gala tickets are $40 at Military Hardware, 1002 13th St. N., and at the Rosenzweig Arts Center, 501 Main St., as well as at Helping Hands.
Raffle tickets are $10, available at the ticket locations and at the event.
"There are so many ways to participate," Rhea said. "You can attend the gala, shop and purchase something at the auction, you can purchase raffle tickets and you can be a sponsor at different levels of giving."
Every contribution goes toward the goal of diminishing hunger in the community in an atmosphere of Christian compassion.
"We see the result," said Wiygul, citing an inspiration for her continued commitment to the ministry.
For more information, contact Loaves & Fishes at 662-549-8607 or email [email protected]
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.