Empty Bowls raised $30,000 this year — nearly doubling the record set in 2021 — to help feed the hungry in the local community. The money will be split evenly between local nonprofits Alive Community Outreach and The Shepherd’s Hand, and the organizations’ directors were shocked and humbled when the amount was unveiled Wednesday.
In addition to the $15,000, each organization also received a $500 gift card from Kroger to help purchase food.
Gwen Bennett is the director of The Shepherd’s Hand, which works with local churches, senior citizen centers, schools, and other organizations to “perform community outreaches aimed at ministering to the body, while seeking to minister to the soul.” The food portion of this outreach began after a grandmother raising her great-grandchildren mentioned that she didn’t know how she was going to feed everyone that night. It grew from about 20 families the first month to nearly 800 per month now.
“This is just an example of how much God blesses us,” Bennett said of the donation. “This comes at a time when the food prices have tripled. This helps us to stay open. We have 170-200 families come through every week.
Cheryl and Bob Russell are co-directors of the Alive Community Outreach. They grew from helping three to four families a month in 2017 to 200 families a month now. In 2021, they served over 10,000 people and are on track for about 8,000 this year. The organization serves a hot meal on the third Wednesday of every month, and provides groceries on the third Thursday of every month.
“Our process is set up to where that’s just about the time that these families have run out of food stamps, and this will tie them over until they get their next allotment,” Bob said.
He added, “This is going to be a big help to get us through the holiday season. We want to make sure every family has a meal on their table for Thanksgiving and Christmas. We just pray that this helps do that.”
Cheryl couldn’t contain her excitement when the ceremonial check was unveiled.
“I think I was just so overwhelmed and blessed because I know how many people in our community this is going to help,” she said. “We’re just so honored and humbled.”
Empty Bowls, a local organization that is dedicated to the national effort of feeding the hungry, has continued to set new records each year. After raising $11,000 in 2020, the organization raised $16,000 a year ago.
Tina Taylor, chairperson for Empty Bowls, said they were able to make such a big jump this year due to the hard work put in by Bennett and the Russells.
“I kind of had a feeling (it was going to be a new record amount) because they worked their butts off,” Taylor said. “When it was over $30,000, we were pretty stoked. We’ve had more sponsorships this year than we’ve ever had. and Bob and Cheryl and Gwen went above and beyond going out into the community to collect silent auction items, and they put together some really awesome things for the silent auction. So we had the best year we’ve ever had at the silent auction as well. It just keeps going. We keep breaking our record.”