Penny Harris says she has a hard time as it is trying to make ends meet with a limited income.
And if it were not for Wesley House, she says, she also would be worrying about the source of her next meal.
Hundreds of Crawford County residents arrived Monday at the local food pantry to stock up on meals for the holiday season. Harris visits the food pantry at least once a month to help put food on her table.
“I think it’s great because if it wasn’t for the Wesley House, I don’t know where I’d be,” she said. “I don’t get enough in food stamps to eat, and I’m disabled. This helps me a lot."
Wesley House in Pittsburg, Kansas, and Watered Gardens Gospel Rescue Mission in Joplin are holding Empty Bowls fundraisers this month to help keep food in cupboards this year. Empty Bowls is an international project designed to fight hunger, and 100% of the proceeds will benefit regional food pantries for those in need.
Established over 30 years ago, Wesley House is an outreach ministry of the Pittsburg First United Methodist Church that aims to assist residents in Crawford County. Marcee Binder, Wesley House pastor and executive director, said it is the largest food pantry in Crawford County and the only daytime homeless drop-in center in Southeast Kansas.
“We’ve done Empty Bowls for the last four years,” Binder said. “The purpose of the bowls is for folks to take them back to their home and see that there is an empty bowl and not everyone in Crawford County can fill their bowls.”
Nearly 300 handcrafted ceramic bowls of all shapes and sizes are ready to be sold for the Wesley House’s event, in which a variety of soups and beverages will be served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday at 411 E. 12th St. in Pittsburg. Binder said the whole community has pitched in for the cause. She cited students from Pittsburg State University, Pittsburg High School and Girard High School.
“We do this every day because we’re called to help others," she said. "To get folks who want to create something that they’re not going to get any money for, it’s beautiful. It’s a great feeling to know that other people care about our folks just as much as we do.”
Bowls can be purchased ahead of time at Wesley House from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday for a $25 donation. The price of a bowl on the day of the event is a $20 donation, but those who purchased it early during the presale will have first pick of the soup and chili options. There will also be a soup-only option for $5 for people who don't purchase a bowl.
"This is the only fundraiser that we do for Wesley House," Binder said. "For every $10 that we can raise, we can buy three full meals.”
The mission’s goal is to raise $4,000 to $5,000 in this year’s event, which will help stock the emergency food pantry for two months. Binder said the pantry served over 11,000 people through its food pantry last year.
Joplin's Watered Gardens, created in 2000, will celebrate its seventh annual Empty Bowls fundraiser from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. for lunch and 5 to 7:30 p.m. for supper on Thursday, Nov. 21, at the Empire Market. Presale bowls cost a $30 donation and can be purchased from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Forge Center for Virtue and Work, 705 E. 15th St. Bowls can also be bought the day of the event for a $20 donation.
In addition to Watered Gardens, proceeds will benefit two local church-sponsored efforts, Mission Joplin and We Care of the Four States. said Ruth Willoughby, community outreach coordinator with Watered Gardens. She said they've already sold 205 ceramic bowls and 238 "cozies," or quilted potholders, as of Monday afternoon. Cozies are also on sale for $5.
"We're still waiting on another batch (of bowls), but all together, we should have around 1,100 bowls," she said. "We took around 50 bowls to We Care of the Four States, members of which are selling them at their location. We have a pretty good partnership with Mercy, so they're also selling bowls on the day of the event from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in front of the gift shop at the hospital, and will also be serving soup."
The Empty Bowls event in Joplin, which previously was organized by Heather Grills, has been resurrected by Watered Gardens. Willoughby said that initially she was nervous that the fundraiser would lose its momentum because of its hiatus, but she quickly realized that wasn't the case.
"This year, people are really coming in and supporting us," she said. "They love the bowls. We're really modeling this year's Empty Bowls as closely as the first six. The only things we're doing differently are using a new logo on the bottom of the bowls that was designed by one of our new artists, and we also changed the benefactor candidates to privately funded organizations."
Over 25 restaurants have agreed to serve up to 5 gallons of their specialty soups, including broccoli cheddar, baked potato, minestrone, tortilla soup and chili. The mission is aiming to raise about $20,000 to be dispersed equally to the three beneficiaries to help eradicate hunger. Willoughby said if all goes well this year, they plan to organize Empty Bowls again next year.