In 1991, Stephen Neely, a student at Carnegie Mellon University, joined a group of classmates to volunteer at an organization just entering its 11th year: Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.
He remembers shoveling frozen lima beans into small bags for distribution. Stephen doesn't even like lima beans!
But he returned to his dorm humbled and impressed by our work – little knowing that his experience, and a mysterious face in a window, would lead to wonderful tradition for his family.
Today, as the Neely’s begin planning Big Soup, their annual fundraising event, they join me in ruing friends like you to renew your support of the Food Bank. Your gift of $15, $20 or $30 will go a long way to bring food and related serves to the 120,000 adults and children who turn to us each month.
Stephen met and married Melissa, a fellow student at Carnegie Mellon University, when they were still in college. In 1993, the newlyweds moved into a small, ground-floor apartment with a window right above the sidewalk.
They decided to throw a party. To keep within their limited means, they’d cook up a huge pot of homemade soup and serve it with crusty bread.
About 20 friends came to enjoy the fare. As the room grew warm, Melissa opened a window. Suddenly, a man poked his head through the window!
The stranger asked them for money. “We don’t have money,” Stephen and Melissa told him. “But we have food! Would you like some?” When he nodded, they packed some soup and bread “to go.” and he went on his way.
“Big Soup” became an annual tradition. The coupled finished school, established careers, bought a nice home and began raising a family. “We live a privileged life,” Stephen says. “We realized our party had the potential to do more than just be a way to stay in touch and have some fun. It’s important to give back. But what could everyone in our eclectic group of friends get behind?”
He remembered how great he’d felt shoveling those lima beans; Melissa remembered the face at the kitchen window.
So at Big Soup 2003, they placed a bowl on the table to collect cash and checks for our Food Bank. By the end of the evening, it held more than $200.
As Big Soup increased awareness of hunger in southwestern Pennsylvania among their friends, the number of guest grew exponentially. “the Food Bank has sustained our party’s good energy with a new purpose,” says Stephen.
I was pleased to learn that they asked guest not to bring canned goods to donated– just to show up a bowl, a spoon, a friend, and cash or a check.
That’s because Stephen and Melissa know that our strategic purchasing enables us to translate every $5 we receive into $25 in food and related services.
A few years ago, Melissa wanted the oldest of their three boys to see what happens to the money from Big Soup, and took him to one of our 400+ food assistance agencies. Like his father before him, Evan shoveled vegetables into smaller containers for our hungry neighbors–including kids his own age.
“It was a powerful teaching moment,” Melissa recalls. “Now that our other sons are getting older, it’s time to do the same with them.”
In 2012, the family served 50 gallons of soup to 260 people… and raised $3,763! Today, as they look through recipes in preparation for Big Soup 2013, I hope you will renew your own support of our work.
You don’t have to labor for hours over a hot stove to share with your neighbors. Simply send the most generous gift you can to Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank–and serve hungry adults and children in need. Thank you.
Lisa A Scales
Chief Executive Officer