By Nancy Flowers
“A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need” (Proverbs 17:17, NLT).
Thirty-four years ago, a group of 18-year-old college guys realized there were some hungry families in the Jackson area that wouldn’t have a Thanksgiving dinner. So they did something about it. They hosted a party to raise money, and quickly discovered that their efforts could truly help with needs in the community. The party became an annual fundraising event. One of the guys, the late Michael Barranco, gave it a memorable Thanksgiving name: Squat & Gobble.
The friends focused their efforts for the next 15 years on feeding the homeless, but over time it became apparent that the homeless were receiving Thanksgiving help from other organizations while still taking from the friends. They decided to switch gears, and, for the next few years, the proceeds from the Squat & Gobble were used to support the UMMC Children’s Hospital, the Greenville Burn Center, and the Mississippi Downs Syndrome Society.
It was about this same time that the friends decided to give their ministry a name, and Friends for a Cause was born. With a mission to strengthen the community by promoting volunteerism, supporting charities, and connecting employers with job candidates, Friends for a Cause became a non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization that seeks to network in order to connect people with needs. The Squat & Gobble remains the signature event, and, for the past decade, the proceeds have assisted victims of violence.
“We focus on two shelters in our community, Catholic Charities and the Center for Violence Prevention,” says FFC director Tommy Turk. “When we learned their work is with victims of both domestic violence and human trafficking, it increased our desire to help.”
The 34th Annual Squat & Gobble will be held on November 20, from 6:30-10 p.m. at Reservoir Pointe. The event features original music by Greenfish, food and beverages, door prizes, and a silent auction. The highlight of the evening is the Prestigious Squat & Gobble Turkey Calling and Dance Contests. The Turkey Calling Contest has amateur and professional categories, and prizes and trophies are awarded for both contests. The event will also feature a raffle for the Ultimate Private Party for 30 on the Friendship Houseboat.
“We’re expecting around 250 people this year,” Tommy says, “with a goal of raising $20,000.”
FFC promotes volunteerism in the metro area by connecting churches and charities with people who have a desire to serve their community. An organization can communicate to FFC their need for volunteers, and FFC will post the need on their website, reaching out to their members and to people they know have a desire to serve.
“There are many people in our area who have been wounded by a church, but still want to serve their community,” says Tommy. “By linking those volunteers with the needs in the community, they have an opportunity to meet people from different churches in our area. While they’re working on a project, someone might invite them to visit their church.”
Each year, FFC recognizes active community volunteerism with its Friends for a Cause Volunteer of the Year Award. They ask churches and organizations to nominate people who have served 15 hours or more in the same charity and are involved in one or two others. The winners of the 2014 award are Shari Kelly and Theresa Abadie.
Shari currently serves as the Chairman of the 2014 MS SIDS & Infant Safety Alliance Lucky Duck Draw Down, was awarded the 2013 Bish Carson Volunteer of the Year Award for Madison the City Chamber of Commerce, and has spent many years with the Sanderson Farms PGA Golf Tournament working with the Golf Channel.
Theresa is a member, volunteer, and newsletter/website coordinator for Friends for a Cause, a member of the Catholic Charities Governance Council, and a lifetime member of the Junior Auxiliary of Madison County.
FFC works hard to connect job seekers with employers looking to hire. “People who have been laid-off or fired from their jobs are struggling with one of the biggest challenges in their lives,” Tommy says. “We have members from different religious denominations who pray and network to help find jobs for people wanting to work.”
FFC is holding a membership drive to increase the number of people receiving their newsletter. They are also looking to promote more church events that are open to the public, whether church garage sale, singles ministry activity, or a featured speaker.
“Our desire is to help people,” says Tommy. “When we work together, our whole community benefits.”
For more information, to become an FFC member, to publicize a church event, or to purchase tickets to Squat & Gobble, visit www.friendsforacause.com. There is an early bird special on tickets purchased by November 10.
FFC 2014 Volunteer of the Year Award Winners (Left to right) Tommy Turk, director of Friends for a Cause, Shari Kelly and Theresa Abadie, winners of the FFC 2014 Volunteer of the Year Award, and Fred Cerami, owner of Cerami’s Italian Restaurant and sponsor for the event.