A cadre of youth groups recently collected 27,500 pounds of food during a Stuff the Pantry contest. That’s about the equivalent of three female African elephants, which is to say, it was a lot of food.
The youth groups then gave what they collected to the charity of their choice, and in most cases, the food came in and was gone again on the first distribution day. That’s how many people are in need.
The men and women who run food centers all say the same thing: They are seeing more people than ever before.
People who had jobs to support their families are out of work, those on fixed incomes can’t make their money stretch the whole month anymore, and the homeless numbers continue to rise.
And that is why the winners of the stuff the pantry competition have already moved on to their next project.
Holy Cross Church in Pickens, with six teens participating, took the grand prize by collecting about 150 pounds of food each.
Bob Schintzius, youth director, said the kids were delighted and grateful to the parish members for their support.
They gave over 870 pounds of food to their St. Vincent de Paul Society, which was so low on supplies they had to skip a recent distribution day.
“It came in and it was gone again just that quick,” Schintzius said. “People are really struggling.”
Now the group is working to fill food boxes for Thanksgiving deliveries, and after that, there will be a collection for Christmas, and then, back to everyday meals.
The youth director said they like to help deliver the boxes so the teens can get an appreciation for who they are helping.
“There’s a definite need out there,” he said. “The kids get to see that they’re a lot better off than some.”
In total, 18 youth groups joined the contest, according to Amanda Nixon, administrative assistant for the diocesan youth and young adults ministry.
The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist and St. Mary in Charleston came in second place. They had 25 youth that collected about 141 pounds each.
St. Thomas the Apostle Church in North Charleston took third place, with 19 teens garnering about 118 pounds of food apiece.
JoAnn McCoy, youth leader at St. Thomas, praised Father Andrew Riley, PIME, for his encouragement and enthusiasm.
“The parish did a wonderful job in being generous and participating for us,” she said.
McCoy also noted that one of the teens, Katrina Shumpert, took up an individual collection in her neighborhood.
Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone often talks about the great need that stewardship areas have for food donations, and lends his personal support to the competitions.
This time, the prize is a trip to Charleston for sightseeing, dinner with the bishop, and overnight lodging for the eight teens and their chaperones, Schintzius said.
Already, other groups are involved in, or planning, their own food collections. Nixon said the Boy Scouts hope to beat the youth group total, and the diocesan schools also plan to participate.
No matter who wins in any of the contests, Schintzius said the ultimate winners are the groups who receive food for people in need.
St. James, Conway, 56 youth, 3841lbs, 68.59 per youth
St. Anne, Rock Hill, 70 youth, 1123lbs, 16.04 per youth
St. Andrew, Clemson, 11 youth, 186.2lbs, 16.93 per youth
St. Anthony, Florence, 40 youth, 3052.8lbs, 76.32 per youth
Holy Cross, Pickens, 6 youth, 870.8lbs, 145.13 per youth
Our Lady of the Rosary, Greenville, 8 youth, 401lbs, 50.13 per youth
Prince of Peace, Taylors, 22 youth, 877.5lbs, 39.89 per youth
St. Mary Help of Christians, Aiken, 61 youth, 2799lbs, 45.89 per youth
St. Thomas the Apostle, North Charleston, 19 youth, 2244.25lbs, 118.12 per youth
Our Lady Star of the Sea, North Myrtle Beach, 20 youth, 1384lbs, 69.20 per youth
St. Joseph, Columbia, 43 youth, 1316lbs, 30.60 per youth
Immaculate Conception, Goose Creek, 24 youth, 464.49lbs, 19.35 per youth
Our Lady of the Lake, Chapin, 125 youth, 1965lbs, 15.72 per youth
Cathedral/St. Mary, Charleston, 25 youth, 3517lbs, 140.68 per youth
St. Andrew, Myrtle Beach, 10 youth, 501.9lbs, 50.19 per youth
St. Philip Benizi, Moncks Corner, 15 youth, 1401lbs, 93.40 per youth
Our Lady of the Hills, Columbia, 35 youth, 1250.5lbs, 35.73 per youth
Jesus Our Risen Savior, Spartanburg, 60 youth, 299lbs, 4.98 per youth