One local organization hopes to help tackle hunger on Super Bowl Sunday. Volunteers in Service to Others (VISTO) is joining area churches in a game-day fundraiser to help increase the organization’s supply of food for needy Cooke County families.
Local churches have been participating in this national effort for the last seven or eight years by passing a bowl or a basket on Super Bowl Sunday to donate to VISTO’s food bank or another charitable organization.
National in scope, yet local in impact, the Souper Bowl of Caring works toward making the weekend of the big game an unprecedented time of giving and serving in this country.
“Our number one contributors are the churches,” said Michelle Baldwin, Executive Director of VISTO, adding that VISTO was founded in the mid-1980s to help the people of Cooke County.
Local churches and businesses have been participating in this national effort for almost a decade by passing a bowl or a basket on Souper Bowl Sunday to donate to Cooke Countyís emergency food bank, VISTO.
VISTO (Volunteers in Service to Others) will once again offer the popular Souper Bowl Sunday Luncheon. It will be held Super Bowl Sunday, February 1st from 11 a.m., to 1 p.m. at First United Methodist Church at 214 S. Denton St. in Gainesville. A variety of soups prepared by the VISTO Board of Directors is on the menu. It is donation only, $5 suggested per bowl. And you get to keep the bowl to remind you there are still empty bowls in Cooke County. This year, Lake Kiowa Chapel will be donating the desserts.
Baldwin said the organization is now looking into grants as well as community fund raisers as a way to help keep the program thriving. Monetary donations are helpful to VISTO because VISTO can purchase food at discount prices.
“We can buy food for significantly less than the public can. For example, I just bought five chickens for seventy five cents each, and I can buy peanut butter for eighteen cents a jar,” says Baldwin.
“It is important for the community to be aware that VISTO is only allowed to have three fundraisers per year. Every cent raised at this event stays in Cooke County,” says Baldwin. “The money will go to help buy food for the emergency food bank and the Back Pack Buddy program.
The Back Pack Buddy program helps make sure some Cooke County school children and their siblings don’t go hungry over the weekend during the school year. “We’re in almost every school in the county providing supplemental nutrition assistance to over 600 children a week,” says Baldwin.
A grant from the United Way's Legacy Fund made this possible, Baldwin said earlier. “That's how we were able to bring Pioneer Valley on.”
But helping feed children is an expensive proposition, she said.
But to show how important this program is to the kids, this story was related: A local kindergarten teacher asked her students which day of the week was the students’ favorite. The kids took turns answering the question. Some said Saturday was their favorite because it isn’t a school day; others liked other days for various reasons.
One little boy told the teacher his favorite day of the week was Friday.
She asked him why.
“Because it’s the day I get my (VISTO) backpack,” he answered.
Beth Denison of VISTO (Volunteers in Service to Others) said she has heard a lot of stories about families and children who have been helped by VISTO services including the organization’s Back Pack Buddy project which provides a backpack full of nutritious foods for local school children on Fridays.
“The cost of the Back Pack Buddy program equals our whole emergency food bank which means we basically doubled the amount of food (and cost) we gave out a year ago. We have always been able to function on the generosity of donations from the good people of Cooke County, but with the success of the Back Pack Buddy program, we will probably have to look at doing more intentional fundraisers,” Baldwin said.
“Few people realize that VISTO has been operating in “crisis” mode since June. There are over 500 people on the waiting list for housing assistance in Cooke County. And with the recent lay-offs in the oil and gas industry, Peterbuilt, Weber, and B29 — more people than ever will need a little help to get through these torturous economic times,” she said.
VISTO is also announcing the Second Annual “Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader” fundraiser scheduled for Saturday, March 28. The event will be hosted at North Central Texas College at 2 p.m.
The VISTO director wishes to remind those that are unable to attend the Souper Bowl luncheon that there will be bell ringers stationed at Wal-Mart the same day, Feb. 1, in the afternoon. She also says everyone is invited and encouraged to attend the luncheon or to make donations. For more information, call 668-6403.
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