Saluki football giving back on football’s biggest weekend

By Thomas Donley, @TdonleyDE

While the Carolina Panthers and Denver Broncos prepared to play on the biggest stage in football, the SIU football team serves others.

The Salukis spent the day before the Super Bowl collecting donations for the Carbondale Good Samaritan House and the Murphysboro Food Pantry as part of the Souper Bowl of Caring, a nationally-sponsored effort to raise money for the hungry and those in need.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 30.4 percent of Jackson County residents live in poverty, more than double the state average of 14.4 percent.

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Pairs of Salukis stood with soup pots at the entrances of participating stores from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, wearing their game jerseys and bright yellow aprons, and accepting monetary donations. Players collected donations in two-hour shifts, and volunteers collected and counted the money every two hours. 

Players could be found at the WalMarts and Krogers in both Carbondale and Murphysboro, as well as Schnucks, Neighborhood Co-op Grocery Store and MurDale True Value. 

Kristina Stepps, associate athletic director for student services and academics, said the football team usually raises $6,000 for Good Samaritan House and the Murphysboro Food Pantry.

“It’s valuable because they realize that they’re out there collecting money for people who don’t know when their next meal is going to come,” she said. “We get a lot of good comments from people in the community saying ‘I saw your players out at Walmart. They made my daughter’s day.'” 

Good Samaritan House has participated in the Souper Bowl of Caring since 1996. SIU football has helped since 2004.

“We have a great relationship with the SIU folks,” said Mike Heath, director of the Good Samaritan House. “The football players have always been fantastic — the greatest bunch of guys.”

The money Good Samaritan House collects funds its food pantry, which is located in the basement of University Baptist Church. Heath said the money raised by SIU football is usually matched by donations from Souper Bowl offerings at various churches in the month following the Super Bowl.

Heath said the Good Samaritan food pantry, which is open on Mondays and Fridays, serves 7,000 to 8,000 families every year.

Murphysboro Food Pantry board member Jane Williams said the food pantry, which is open five days a week at 906 North 14th St., serves more than 37,000 people per year. She said the Souper Bowl of Caring is about more than raising donations.

“We have die-hard Saluki fans, and they can see the people that they sit at the stadium and watch,” Williams said. “And, I think from the other side, I love when younger people get involved and experienced the joy of doing for others.”

 Thomas Donley can be reached at [email protected] or at 618-536-3307

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