Annual food bank auction to fill bowls, involve community

Local organizers are gearing up to make sure this year’s Soup Supper Auction fills as many stomachs as possible, both at the annual event and throughout the community.

Put on by the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank with the help of numerous sponsors, the auction will return for its nineteenth year on Aug. 29 at Kenai Central High School. The doors will open at 5 p.m., with the event beginning at 5:30 p.m., said Kenai Peninsula Food Bank Executive Director Linda Swarner.

“My goal would be to beat last year’s record because it’s all about feeding the hungry people on the Kenai Peninsula, and we touch 20 percent of the population,” she said.

That level of service means the food bank puts out around 8,000 meals each year, Swarner said. The Soup Supper Auction is the main fundraiser that supports the food bank’s operation. Last year, it brought in close to $100,000, Swarner said.

Swarner, who became directly involved with the auction after its fourth or fifth year, said it has moved locations three times over the years to accommodate a growing number of participants. She expects the event to fill the 400 seats at the Kenai Central High School.

“We have a very generous community and there’s an awesome staff,” Swarner said. “The Kenai Central High School staff help us tremendously and without them, we couldn’t do it.”

For the price of a $50 admission ticket, attendees will walk away with one of several hundred hand-crafted bowls after using them to devour homemade soup during the event. This year, Swarner said ceramic and wooden bowls have been donated by the Kenai Potters Guild, members of the Kenai Peninsula Girl Scouts, The Arc of Anchorage and local artisans and potters.

The food bank is still collecting bowls for the event, she said. Two featured soups on this year’s menu are halibut chowder and a vegetarian soup.

Bobbi Stelljes, owner of Fine Thyme Cafe in Soldotna, has been one of several people cooking and serving soups for the auction for about seven years. She said hearing Swarner speak so enthusiastically and passionately about the event was reason enough to get involved.

“It’s a wonderful social thing,” Stelljes said. “The good that it does for the community is awesome.”

Juggling the needs of her restaurant on top of planning for the auction can be a struggle, and Stelljes said it is all about the timing. Swarner, too, noted how much planning goes into the food bank’s largest event of the year, saying that she and others are already planning for next year’s auction. Stelljes said she enjoys being able to serve her soups to attendees in addition to cooking them with the help of her sister, Jerri Scott.

“It gives me much, much joy to see the smiles on people’s faces when they eat my soup,” Stelljes said. “I just love the people, and I love the cause of course.”

The event will feature both a live and silent auction and a raffle in addition to dinner. Raffle tickets are $100 and are available both before and during the event, Swarner said. There are 100 raffle tickets to be bought.

Joe Gallagher, Homer Electric Association’s Director of Member Relations, will serve as the event’s emcee for the first time, though he is no stranger to the auction itself.

“My wife and I have attended the Soup Supper Auction several times over the past years,” Gallagher said. “We always try to help out in whatever way we can.”

When Swarner approached Gallagher with the proposition of being the emcee, he said it took him only seconds to agree. If he is asked back in the future, he said he would be more than happy to fill the position again.

“I guess we’ll see how it goes,” Gallagher said. “I’m definitely excited about it. Of course we hope there will be a big turn out, and I look forward to meeting with Linda (Swarner).”

Soup Supper Auction organizers are still accepting items for the auctions, Swarner said. Tickets for the event can be purchased at Charlotte’s Bakery in Kenai or at River City Books in Soldotna, and residents can call 907-262-3111 for more information.

Reach Megan Pacer at megan.pacer@peninsulaclarion.com

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