By Tanya Shearer
It is hard to believe that eight years ago the 1st Empty Bowls of Cullman County dinner was held in November of 2003. Planning began in September, and the first dinner was held two months later. Organizers hoped to serve 100-200 people and raise $2,000. However, when it was all said and done, over 600 people came to the dinner that first year and almost $6,000 was raised for the food bank. There are many fond memories of that first year: Running out of chili, running out of bowls, and basically running out of everything because the response from the community was so wonderful and continues to be so. From the beginning, God has truly blessed the Empty Bowls of Cullman County dinner and all the Honor and Glory truly goes to HIM for the success of the event. It definitely has become a very special, anticipated night in our community. And because of this, over the last seven years Empty Bowls of Cullman County has raised $57,500 for our Community Food Bank at CCFK.
Of course, the needs of the Food Bank have continued to grow over the last eight years. In December 2010 alone, the CCFK Food Bank served 408 families consisting of 854 individuals. This number includes the 39 new families that were added in the month of December. Still, a majority of the people coming to the food bank are on a fixed income. However, the directors at the food bank have seen an increase in the number of young families in which both parents suddenly find themselves unemployed. This concerns them very much because nutritious food is essential to healthy children.
The food distributed at the food bank is given for short term emergency, assistance only. The 20-25 pound bags of food are intended to provide a family of four, nutritious food for three days. People may come to the food bank once a month to receive a bag of food. There is also a stringent screening process for all people coming to the food bank to document their income and all information. Even after they meet the criteria for assistance, they are monitored carefully and are referred to other agencies in the community in an effort to get them back to work as soon as possible. In fact, recently a community resource workshop was held at the Alabama Career Center to coordinate efforts and resources of area agencies to help people in need.
Most of the people coming to the food bank, don’t want to be there and never dreamed that they would be in a situation and not have enough food for their families. But life is full of unexpected events and the economy has hit everyone hard. The food bank is there to help people going through a temporary job loss and the corresponding hardships. Many times, people are so grateful for the assistance that they received during their time of need that they return to the food bank to contribute financially or to donate their time, when they have jobs again.
Each year, hundreds of people work together to make this night possible, each one bringing their own special talents or gifts. Many people lend their artistic, musical, culinary, organizational and financial gifts and talents to make this evening special. The Gospels tell the story of Jesus multiplying the donation of five loaves and two fishes in order to feed five thousand people. Specially, Luke 9:20 tells us: “They all ate and were satisfied and the disciples picked up 12 baskets of broken pieces that were left over.” What a wonderful lesson to us! Everyone at the dinner had enough food to eat and the donated resources were multiplied to feed many other people after the event.
Remember, money goes a long way at the food bank and you can help support, and be a part of the Empty Bowls of Cullman County dinner in several different ways:
• Buy a ticket (Your $10 donation will buy 70 lbs. of food);
• Make a donation (a $100 donation will buy 700 lbs. of food);
• Contribute an item for the silent or live auction;
• Tell others about the Empty Bowls dinner.
The Empty Bowls dinner will be held from 4:30 to 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 21, in Hearin Hall at First United Methodist Church. The price includes an evening of Southern Gospel music, a keepsake pottery bowl, chili and a sandwich. Tickets are $10 and are available at First United Methodist Church, Cullman Caring For Kids, St. John’s Evangelical Protestant Church and Deb’s Bookstore. Carryouts will also be available. For more information, contact the office at First United Methodist Church at 734-6690 or Cullman Caring For Kids at 739-1111.
Looking forward to seeing you,
‰ Tanya Shearer is a resident of Cullman.