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Filling bowls and bellies: Annual fundraising lunch to support community services set for Friday

Winchester residents and businesses are gearing up for the first Friday after the week of Thanksgiving to host a very different type of meal.

From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Dec. 1 in the basement of First Presbyterian Church, 130 Windridge Drive, volunteers will host the eighth annual Empty Bowls event in Winchester.

Empty Bowls is a hunger awareness campaign that began more than 25 years ago in North Carolina. Participants pay for a handmade bowl filled with a basic vegetarian soup recipe and a piece of homemade bread, and then dine together as a community while remembering those who struggle to find food.

Ruthie Skinner, chairperson for this year’s event, said when it first happened, Empty Bowls was supposed to be a one-time event, but the idea became a hit and it has continued ever since.

In central Kentucky, Empty Bowls got off the ground thanks to the contributions of Joe Molinaro, a professor emeritus of Ceramics at Eastern Kentucky University.

Molinaro, along with some of his students, started an empty bowls event in Richmond with 200 bowls. That number quickly grew to 1,400, and strained the limits of what the ceramics department could do.

In recent years, the bowls in Winchester have been provided by Carvel and Ashley Norman of Dirty South Pottery, who helped Molinaro with the event in the past as EKU students. The two create about 300 bowls for the local event.

“We start making the bowls in January,” Carvel Norman said.

Each bowl needs to be shaped, fired and finished, a process that can take as long as two to three weeks.

In addition to the Normans, others have volunteered their time to assist with the event. Molly Stotts of My Father’s Garden is preparing the rolls for the meal, JROTC students from George Rogers Clark High School will be directing parking at the event and others have volunteered to make and serve the soup.

“It’s an eye-opening experience to see how many people turn out,” Carvel Norman said. “It’s uplifting.”

The cost fo the event is $15, which includes the meal and a handcrafted bowl of each visitor’s choosing.

Skinner said the bowl will be filled with soup and they will get a piece of bread to go with it, as well as some water. When finished eating, participants will have their bowls cleaned and given back to them to keep.

“Each time they see their bowl they are reminded that they took a small step to alleviate hunger,” Skinner said.

While Skinner said the goal of the event is more about raising awareness than money, some money will be collected and donated to the local food pantry at Clark County Community Services to help supply food through the winter months.

“We donate about $5,000 each year, and that money helps to feed people in January and February, the pantry’s leanest months,” she said.

Additionally, any food left over from the meal will be donated to Beacon of Hope Emergency Shelter.

Skinner said she expects about 250 to 300 people to take part in the event.