The Kenai Peninsula Food Bank's seventh annual Soup Supper and Auction on Friday will have a wider variety of items for patrons to bid on than ever before and an increased need for the money generated by those purchases.
According to Linda Swarner, executive director of the food bank, the organization is facing a decrease in funding at the same time as an increase in need for its services.
"The money from the soup supper goes into our operating budget," Swarner said. "It's very important for the operating budget. Of course, I'd like to see (the amount of money raised from the event) double, but that's probably wishing too much."
According to Swarner, the food bank has seen an increased demand for the services it provides in the last year. In 2002, the food bank's soup kitchen served meals to an average of 1,400 people a month. As of July, that number had increased to 1,766 people a month. In direct services for instance when someone comes to the food bank in need of emergency food supplies the food bank served an average of 991 people a month last year and 1,102 a month so far this year. Through the food bank's agency distribution program, it provided an average of 448 boxes of food per month last year, compared with 627 so far this year.
In general, the downturn in the economy is spurring this increased demand. More specific factors are at play, as well.
"We're seeing an increase in the numbers of seniors coming in seeking help through our programs due to senior longevity bonus being cut." Swarner said.
However, instead of rising to meet these increased demands, the food banks' funding is shrinking. The organization has seen a decrease in its United Way funding, in the reimbursement funds it gets from the government for administering a commodities program and in general donations, Swarner said.
Meanwhile, costs are rising. Insurance rates have gone up, as has the cost of gas, which makes it more expensive for the food bank to operate its three vehicles.
In light of these developments, the food bank is hoping this year's Soup Supper and Auction is a bigger success than ever before.
Soup Supper participants will have an array of unique bowls to choose from.
Photo by Jenny Neyman
So far, the outlook is good. All 300 tickets for the dinner have been sold and the amount of sponsorship funding gathered this year has exceeded what was raised last year, Swarner said.
The dinner will start at 5:30 p.m. Friday at the Soldotna Sports Center. As always, the soup will be served in hand-crafted unique bowls, which the diners get to keep, that were made by area potters, including art students from Soldotna High School, members of the Kenai Potters Guild and Lisa Wood from Homer.
"The potters are very excited about doing this and just being involved in a project that helps the community," Swarner said.
Gracing the menu again this year will be Carrol Martin's Grand Champion Beef Stew. The meat for the stew will come from this year's 4-H grand champion steer, raised by Stephanie Lambe of Kasilof and bought and donated to the food bank by Udelhoven Oilfield System Services. Also on the menu is Cheryl and Brenda's Fantastic Vegetarian Garden Vegetable Soup, made with veggies from the food bank's garden, and Linda Kendall's Fabulous Halibut Chowder. Diners also will get coffee from Kaladi Brothers and bread and desserts from The Moose is Loose Bakery.
A youth group from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and several celebrity guests will be on hand to help with dinner and the auctions, including Sen. Tom Wagoner, Kenai Mayor John Williams, Soldotna Mayor Dave Carey, Soldotna City Council members Lisa Parker and Audrey Porter, Kenai City Council member John "Ozzie" Osborne and Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly President Pete Sprague.
After dinner, the bidding will begin. People who did not get a ticket to dinner can still come and participate in the auctions at 7:30 p.m.
Several styles of auctions are planned. There will be a Soup Can Grab Bag, where people buy numbered soup cans for $20 each and get a corresponding numbered grab bag of goodies worth $20 to $40. Continuing the soup bowl theme, several bowls will be lined up in front of a wide variety of items. People can buy tickets for $1 and place them in the bowls that correspond to the items they want. At the end of the night, a winning ticket for each item will be drawn from each bowl.
There also will be a Chinese auction and an outcry auction, as well as a split-the-pot raffle with $1 tickets.
Photo by Jenny Neyman
"The variety in the auctions gives people great opportunities to purchase things depending on their financial situations," Swarner said. "I think it gives them a variety of ways to help the food bank."
The list of items that will be up for bid is more impressive than has been seen at any past Soup Supper and Auction, Swarner said.
"I think people are going to be excited," she said.
Some of the big ticket items include Prince Williams Sound, Kenai Fjords and Resurrection Bay cruises, fishing charters, two free nights at a bed and breakfast, a gourmet catered dinner for six, and passage for two in the owner's stateroom on a Totem Ocean Trailer Express Inc. cargo ship between Tacoma, Wash., and Anchorage.
For those with an interest in art, there will be a custom designed vest by Lila Ann Krohn, who won first place in the wearable arts division of the 2002 Pacific Northwest Quilt Show, quilts and several art prints, including a framed print by Anchor Point artist Norman Lowell, to bid on.
There are several other items up for the various auctions as well, including two U.S. flags that were flown at the capitol in Washington, D.C., donated by Sens. Ted Stevens and Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska flag, a year membership to the Alaska SeaLife Center, a locally made wood bench, several gift certificates, dog sled tours in Seward and a Carhartts jacket.
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