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Empty Bowls Raises Awareness

Every day, Misty Tennant sees a line of hungry people.

As the director of the Soup Opera, these people come to her and the facility to get their food for the day, as they may otherwise not get anything to eat.

“There is a great need of hunger in the county,” Tennant said. “They don’t know, but the word is getting out more.”

On Sunday, she again saw a similar line of people lining up for food, but the guests were actually helping to keep her nonprofit stocked, through the annual United Way of Marion County Empty Bowls luncheon. This was the sixth year the luncheon has been held in Marion County, and is meant to raise money for and emphasize the hungry present in the community.

“It’s a problem in every community,” said Brett White, executive director of the United Way. “It might not be one that people realize, but every community has hunger issues, and we’re certainly no different from them.”

Empty Bowls in concept is a fundraiser which utilizes several aspects of community support. It starts with the titular empty bowls themselves, which, in Marion County, are created by local businesses and then painted and decorated by community members to be used at the luncheon.

Community members also assist in the luncheon itself, with chefs and cooks from the Knights of Columbus, which hosts the luncheon, providing food, while other community volunteers serve it and participate in helping at the luncheon.

“We had 945 bowls this year,” White said. “We’ve already had a great turnout... I’m thrilled to see so many people coming out to support our community.”

The food present at the luncheon mainly consists of soup and bowl dishes, to compliment the use of the colorful bowls, but also to spread the message the event itself advocates. White explained that the concept and the execution of Empty Bowls is meant to exemplify the struggle faced by so many right within the county.

“Walking through the soup line is supposed to remind you of walking in a homeless shelter,” White said. “And the bowls, when you take them home and you have that bowl on your shelf, it’s supposed to remind you that there’s always empty bowls in the world that you can help to alleviate hunger.”

By holding this event, White, the volunteers and the people who participate in the luncheon help to fight the problem of hunger. Guests could purchase a bowl to use at the luncheon, but also take home as a reminder of the problem of hunger itself.

The proceeds raised through the purchase of the bowls will be used to benefit the Soup Opera, the Salvation Army and the Connecting Link, which are each organizations aimed at fighting this problem.

“I think we’ve had a great crowd already,” White said. “Every dollar that we raise stays right here, so we’re really excited about it. The Soup Opera, Salvation Army and Connecting Link, so United Way does this, but then all the dollars go directly to the hunger programs.”

For Tennant, seeing this type of effort put forth on all fronts to combat hunger in the county is a fight worth picking, as she hopes to see the problem put to rest.

“It means a lot that everyone comes out and supports us,” Tennant said. “It’s awesome that everyone came out here, and they come out here to support us.

“The word is getting out more with different agencies that there is a great need.”

Written by: Eddie Trizzino- Times West Virginian, 3/11/19
Email Eddie Trizzino at etrizzino@timeswv.com and follow him on Twitter at @eddietimeswv.