The Soup Kitchen of Greater Wheeling is experiencing a dramatic increase in the number of people it must feed daily, according to Executive Director Becky Shilling-Rodocker.

In order to generate funds to feed the 200-plus men, women and children who frequent the Soup Kitchen each day, a variety of fundraisers have been set. The first two of a series to follow include:

* The Soup Kitchen Soup Sale is scheduled from 6 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Friday. For this event - in its sixth year - Beth Bednar, cook, will be serving "Beth's Famous Potato Soup" as well as homemade chicken noodle soup. The cost for one quart of soup is $5, and orders can be placed by calling 304-233-2992.

* The Soup Kitchen Spaghetti Dinner will be held from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 26. Board members will be cooking and serving the pasta dinner, which includes a garlic roll, salad and desserts. Tickets are $7 for adults and $5 for children. Anyone who presents their church's bulletin at the time of purchase will receive $1 off of their meal.

"We are running short on funds and have decided to do a few fundraisers to get us through the end of the year," Rodocker said. "The first one is our Soup Sale, which is usually a big seller."

Rodocker said there has been a 20-percent to 30-percent increase in the number of people being fed each month - a hike she termed as "huge" for her organization. She attributes the increased need to the faltering economy.

"I think that people have smaller jobs, work for smaller companies and do day labor, and those people are not getting those jobs anymore," Rodocker said. "I think people are frightened. All of the talk about the economy has scared people, and they want to try to save a little bit and make sure their bills are paid. We are getting new faces every day. We see a lot of the same, but with the new faces it's difficult."

Also due to economic struggles, Rodocker said, fewer people are donating to the Soup Kitchen which is adding to the problem. She also said the kitchen is being extra careful with food to make sure it stretches a little further. On certain days especially at the end of the month the kitchen feeds more than 235 people.

"We are not getting the donations we used to get," she said. "We are just hoping the community opens its heart and gives at Christmas time. ... I think people should stop in and see the Soup Kitchen in action. It's very good for families."

In conjunction with the fundraisers, there will be a raffle for a Pittsburgh Steelers Christmas Tree and tickets to the Pittsburgh Steelers versus the Cleveland Browns game on Dec. 28. There will also be a variety of other fundraising baskets available in the coming weeks.

"We also need volunteers as well," Rodocker said. "Hopefully, we can get help to survive. The cash flow is just not there. We pay for 60 percent of our food, and there are just a few employees ... We are also still paying off the building, which has been a blessing for many people around here. It has attracted many people in need. Children don't think they are in a soup kitchen. They think it's another restaurant.

"We do special things all year long," she added. "We are 25 years old, and we have to make sure we survive. It's just crunch time. That's why we have set up these fundraisers."

Soup Kitchen Schedules Fundraisers to Meet Rising Needs