The Salvation Army has its kettle; 4-H its special clover.

Habitat for Humanity has its family trio in front of a house and now District 14U Lions have the purple pig.

The pigs signify an additional District Lions Outreach to the Community-Feeding the Hungry.

Lions District 14U District Governor Bob Neumoyer says the reason for starting this project is that, "After investigating food service and distribution locations in our 4-county area (Carbon, Monroe, Pike and Schuylkill), it became apparent that local poverty levels have nearly tripled as many new families are turning to local networks for basic food needs.

"Record amounts of food have already been distributed as food banks across the nation are all experiencing empty shelves. This means that the help of Lions in 14U is more important than ever."

Increases in families using food pantries or hunger ministry sites are phenomenal. Lion Charlie Rush, co-chair for the project for Region 1 (Monroe and Pike counties) knows that personally. He is a volunteer with the Pleasant Valley Ecumenical Network which serves the hungry in the four township Pleasant Valley School District as well as Hamilton Township and Jackson Township in part.

As Rush explains, "My reason for becoming a co-chair is due to my present association with the Pleasant Valley Ecumenical Network food pantry. I see first-hand the needs of clients every week and the numbers continue to increase. We can not stress enough the importance of continuing to contribute to our local food pantries."

The purple pig for the ongoing project was made the symbol of outreach to community when Lion Albert (Bud) Barnes, co-chair of Region III along with Lion Sharon Kimmel and Lion Dave Sennet found them at a business in California.

"They had several colors but Sharon and I agreed on purple because that was the closest to the Lions International color," explains Barnes.

Since the purple pigs have already been delivered to that region, most clubs are using the pigs for a food drive, shares Barnes. "A member either brings a non-perishable item (to the club meeting) or they feed the pig."

He chose to help chair the project because, "I am very involved with my church, the Salvation Army in Pottsville. I know how many people we help feed on a weekly basis, and I felt this was a very good way to get the Lions of our district involved. You never realize the need in your area until you see the amount of needy people in your area.

"Sharon, Dave and I thought this was and is a great cause and we hope it continues to grow." That hope includes clubs offering even more project support during the ensuing months.

Kimmel agrees that the project deserves great support.

"This is a very worthy project. We are always ready to help those in other countries but often forget our own country where there is a need. This is such a great way for our Lions to become involved right here in our own country, in our own communities."

Region II co-chair (Carbon County) Larry Williams has also made the purple pig known.

"I have visited several clubs and the Lehighton Lioness/Lions gave $50 in November to the District drive, and they plan more. "Franklin is always doing some kind of food drive, with a large food drive in the spring. They have a novel way to get the canned food, "he explains. "They have a contest that the contestants have to make some kind of art out of the canned goods."

"I have sent letters and called other clubs and have not (yet) been able to get to see them."

He recently, along with the food pantry in Nesquehoning, tried to get rid of a tractor trailer load of peppers. The biggest problem was that they were in large containers.

His counterpart in Region II, Lion Mary Labert, president of the McAdoo Lions Club, says the Coaldale Lions donated $100 for the First Congregational Church Food Pantry of Coaldale and the Lansford Food Pantry. The club will be making additional donations in during 2010.

Tamaqua Lions Club presented a check for $200 to the Salvation Army and will use the Pig Bank at its meeting, And she adds, "The Tamaqua Leo Club has elected to participate in the 'purple pig'"

The McAdoo Lions has been collecting supplies at each meeting and taken them to the McAdoo Food Pantry and at the club's first meeting of 2010, she will talk to the membership about the "purple pig" bank.

The path of the Feeding the Hungry can take many turns just as there are many reasons why Lions volunteer.

Region 1 co-chair Lion/Lioness Adele Argot has partnered with Rush to share the story of the purple pig with the region's newest Lions Club, the Bushkill/Smithfields Lions Club and will be doing more club presentations soon.

Her reasons for helping co-chair this project include working with many folks who make use of the food pantries through her Penn State Cooperative Extension Nutrition Links classes in Monroe and Carbon counties.

And she adds, "Coming from overseas during post-war times, I know personally what it is like for families to not have enough to eat, to wonder 'What will I feed my children.'"

The purple pigs are, and will be, a symbol of outreach to those in need.

For District Lions, "Feeding the Hungry" by "feeding" the purple pigs will be a special focus of Lions practicing their motto "We serve" on the local level.