COLUMBIA-SC — Harriett McGowan has a busy weekend planned.
As thousands of youths gather across the country on Super Bowl Sunday to help fight hunger, the A.C. Flora High senior will be front and center for the 24th annual Souper Bowl of Caring.
McGowan is on the 2012-13 National Youth Advisory Board for the Souper Bowl of Caring. Since 1990 the Columbia-born, youth-led charity has gained national prominence, raising some $90 million for local food banks, pantries and other hunger relief agencies.
As a Youth Advisory Board member, McGowan has helped raise awareness about hunger relief efforts and provided feedback and guidance to the Souper Bowl of Caring staff.
She spoke recently about her passion for the effort and her hopes for this year’s drive.
How did you become involved with the Souper Bowl of Caring?
McGowan: “I became involved through my youth group at Eastminster Presbyterian Church. Our youth group began to participate in the Service Blitz (a day of service on Super Bowl weekend), and this is what interested me to get more involved.”
Tell us about your work as a youth ambassador.
McGowan: “As a youth ambassador I reach out to people in my community to show them how easy it is to help others through Souper Bowl of Caring. I love to show people that their donation really makes a difference and that they are a great contribution to our team.”
Why do you think the issue of hunger has caught on so strongly with young people in our area and across the country?
McGowan: “Hunger and poverty are problems that exist in every community, but we may not always see it. Through Souper Bowl of Caring, we can see our efforts directly benefiting those in need, and it feels good to see your effort appreciated and to feel like you did make a difference.”
Can you give us a preview of your week?
McGowan: “I will be leading a food drive at A.C. Flora. Then I will volunteer on Saturday morning and be at both church services on Super Bowl Sunday. I will be very excited to see the donations come in and to hopefully beat our record for last year. Then after a parent-youth football game, I am definitely going to be watching the game with my family but also remembering that there are others without a bowl of soup to eat.”
What is one of the statistics regarding the Souper Bowl of Caring that you are most proud of during your time with the organization?
McGowan: “The fact that close to $10 million was raised last year is pretty impressive. I think that not only that number, but the number (of) uncounted lives affected across the nation is even more impressive.”
And what does it mean to you to be at the heart of where the outreach began?
McGowan: “It feels great to be a part of the Souper Bowl of Caring and it’s a great conversation starter to remind people that it began right here. Not a lot of things start here, but this did and now it’s huge. People across the country know our city because of Souper Bowl of Caring. That’s really cool.”
What are some things that young people can do to help combat hunger year-round?
McGowan: “All nonprofit organizations need volunteers year-round, so helping hands are always appreciated. So serving anywhere is a great way to stay involved year-round. There are so many organizations here who need our help, so you can call them and find out what they need. You could take your family or a group of friends to volunteer each month or even hold a bake sale to raise money.”
Groups can still register for this year’s Souper Bowl of Caring at tacklehunger.org.