Annual Soup Line scheduled

Saturday, March 10, 2012

FORT SCOTT, Kan. -- The Beacon Benefit Soup Line, a community tradition for many years, is the biggest fundraiser of the year for the local food pantry and community assistance agency.

This year's event is slated to take place from 11 a.m.- 7 p.m. Thursday, March 29, at the Scottish Rite Temple, 110 S. Main St. The annual fundraiser helps provide operating cash for The Beacon, an agency that provides food and financial assistance to needy and low-income families in Bourbon County.

"It's been a community event for years," The Beacon Director Bob Eckles said. "It has also brought out the ecumenical aspect, the cooperation of all the churches that donate time serving and cleaning up, selling tickets and making food to support the event."

In recent years, the Soup Line has brought in about $3,000 to $4,000 for The Beacon. Proceeds are used as the basis for figuring the agency's budget each year.

"The money supports our food ministry here," Eckles said. "It goes into our budget, which keeps the doors open. We purchase over 50 percent of our food."

Eckles added the agency spends about $2,000 to $3,000 per month on food for the center. Food items are either donated or purchased from local grocers, or the Kansas Food Bank in Wichita.

"Donated food helps our budget; it's one less can we have to buy," he said. "It's (Soup Line) a tradition and something we count on."

Other local fundraisers throughout the year also benefit The Beacon, and the agency receives contributions from schools, civic clubs and organizations and churches.

After two years of learning from past coordinators of the event, this will be the first year the Young Professionals League, a network of young area business professionals who are active in the community, is completely in charge of the annual fundraiser. The process of shifting organizational duties to the YPL began last year when YPL members worked alongside the event's previous longtime organizers and volunteers.

A network of more than 40 area churches that helps sponsor the soup line donates items such as flour for the noodles and homemade desserts such as pies and cakes.

"We couldn't do it without churches being involved and their support," YPL Community Service Chairwoman Megan Felt said. "They come and work as well."

The YPL took over the Soup Line to help grow and improve the event. The group is trying to raise more awareness about the event, get more people involved and raise more money for The Beacon. Felt said she thinks the organization has been successful with its goals as attendance at the event increased by nearly 200 people between 2010 and 2011.

"And with attendance comes awareness and definitely an increase in proceeds," she said.

Nearly 700 people attended last year's event.

Felt said there are no plans to make changes to the event but organizers are "definitely being more aggressive in ticket sales."

YPL members contribute to the fundraiser by working at the event, selling tickets, doing clean-up and prep work, and other tasks.

"This is our big service project for the community," Felt said. "It's our largest community service event. We have other events through the year, but none have the impact of the soup line."

Each year, dozens of volunteers contribute many hours preparing and cooking food, selling and distributing tickets, cleaning the facility after the event and decorating and preparing the temple's dining hall.

Students from different area schools help by selling tickets, while area businesses lend support by donating goods and money and purchasing spots on placemats on dining tables.

Tickets, which cost $5, can be purchased at the Country Cupboard or from Felt or Jamie Armstrong with the YPL, or at the door the day of the event. Attendees will receive a hearty bowl of soup, choice of beverage, dessert and bread, Felt said.