For the 11th straight year, the Gowrie Group of Westbrook is holding its annual Gowrie Group Matching Challenge, this year seeking to raise $125,000 to benefit the Shoreline Soup Kitchens & Pantries (SSKP) through Wednesday, Dec. 31. After more than a decade, this campaign has donated nearly $1 million to SSKP. "It feels great, and we have gotten other local companies to help by matching part of the gift so it really multiplies that way," says Carter Gowrie, who founded the Gowrie Group, an insurance brokerage firm, 40 years ago. "My firm wanted to do something locally and find a not-for-profit that had a lot of meaning to us." After searching, Carter met Patty Dowling, the executive director of SSKP, who is "very impressive," according to Carter. They came up with the idea of gift-matching community members' contributions. "It's compelling to know that if you make a contribution, it's going to be doubled," says Carter, an Old Saybrook resident. "What's unique about the Shoreline Soup Kitchens is that they can supply a meal for about 40 cents, so when you're giving $100, you're buying about 250 meals. For the contribution, you get an awful lot for your money." While SSKP always accepts food donations, the Gowrie Group's campaign is based on cash donations. In order to have a donation matched, people can donate online www.shorelinesoupkitchens.org by clicking the "Donate" button and selecting "Gowrie Challenge." Checks, made out to Shoreline Soup Kitchens & Pantries, can also be mailed to Gowrie Group Challenge, P.O. Box 804, Essex, CT 06426; or brought to the Gowrie Group office at 70 Essex Road, Westbrook. The Gowrie Group has set a goal of raising $125,000 this holiday season. While the Gowrie Group created the challenge, it has encouraged other local businesses to join in, as well. Gowrie Group is donating $25,000, and L.C. Doane Company, the Safety Zone, Tower Labs, All Waste Inc., and Andre Prost are donating an additional $22,500 in matching funds. The holidays aren't the only time of year that Carter and his employees at the Gowrie Group step up to help. Each summer, Gowrie employees prepare and serve a lunch at a meal site in Old Saybrook. Before the holidays, there are also food drives at each of the Gowrie Group's offices, including Westbrook, Darien, Newport and North Kingstown, Rhode Island, and Marshfield and and Manchester, Massachusetts. Two special events to benefit the Gowrie Group Challenge and the SSKP include Dancing to End Hunger, a ballet performance of Ahavah: The Store of Christmas at The Morgan School in Clinton on Dec. 6 and 7, and the SSKP Benefit Concert at The Kate in Old Saybrook on Dec. 19. The challenge began on Nov. 15 and runs through the end of 2014. Carter says that people have come to look forward to the challenge each year. "Starting in October, people begin to ask us if we're doing it again," says Carter, who enjoys sailing and playing the guitar. "We get a pretty good response." The challenge has not only helped to raise funds for the SSKP, but raise awareness of the challenges some local families face. According to the SSKP's website, SSKP provides "approximately 900,000 meals worth of food each year" and serves Essex, Chester, Clinton, Madison, Old Saybrook, East Lyme, Lyme, Old Lyme, Killingworth, Westbrook, and Deep River. "People don't always think of these shoreline towns as having this kind of need, but it's there and the need goes up every year-it's unbelievable," says Carter, who has five children with his wife Deborah. "A lot of people from the Gowrie Group have volunteered at the soup kitchen or the food pantries. I've also volunteered with my kids. It's a great thing to do because it's as much about giving as receiving."