'Empty Bowls' March 22 at Memorial United Methodist
When Sandy McGhee and Tracy Brinkley organized the first Empty Bowls project in Thomasville, community members showed up in droves last March to show their support for the vision of eradicating hunger in their corner of the world.
This year, McGhee and Brinkley eagerly await nothing less than another excellent turnout. Memorial United Methodist Church will host Empty Bowls from 4 to 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 22. Proceeds will benefit Project Divine Interruption and Cooperative Community Ministry. Empty Bowls is an international effort to end hunger that began in Detroit, Mich. in 1990.
"We have increased since last year when we sold 300 tickets," McGhee said. "Because of how quickly others responded and the increased need, we've increased to 400 this year. We're trying to meet the growing need while still trying to do it well and keep it within what we can handle."
Brinkley is all-too-familiar with the growing need of which her colleague speaks. As the point person of Project Divine Interruption — a local grassroots movement sponsored by MUMC to assist students with housing and food insecurities — Brinkley recites statistics of homelessness within the Thomasville City School system with grave disappointment.
"When we started out, our numbers were right about 100 [students classified as homeless]," Brinkley said. "If you have a school system with 2,500 and you have 100 who are homeless, that's 1 in 25. Nationally, the average is 1 in 50, so we are really behind the eight ball. The numbers, as of this month, are up to 120."
Guests will be served a simple meal of soup and bread in keepsake homemade bowls, which serve as reminders of all the empty bowls in the world.
A six-member panel of "celebrity soup servers" will engage guests: Keith Tobin, Thomasville City Schools superintendent; Cindy Farmer, FOX 8 reporter; Tommy Hodges, Tom A. Finch YMCA; Amy Greeson, pharmacist and founder of Healing Seekers; Joe Bennett, mayor of Thomasville; and Jeff Insley, chief of Thomasville Police Department.
The meal’s sponsors include Sunrise Diner, Ruby Tuesday, Capri's, Domino's, Tommy's Bar-B-Q and Sprinkle of Sugar. Each restaurant donated food and other products to help get the event off the ground. Musical guest Mitch Snow will perform.
"The amazing thing is that Thomasville is an economically struggling community. All of these restaurants are donating all of this food," Brinkley said. "These are not restaurants that just have tons of profits right now. They're making the sacrifice to do this, and they're doing it readily. There's no arm twisting.
"When we said we were increasing from 300 to 400, they just responded. When you make soup for 400, you're going to feel it. They're willing to take that ding."
A minimum donation of $10 is suggested for each guest. Before and after they eat, Brinkley and McGhee hope participants will open their hearts to educational components of the evening intended to advocate and raise awareness for those suffering from a disparaging source of food.
A silent auction will be held with proceeds split evenly between Project Divine Interruption and Cooperative Community Ministry.
This common goal of ending hunger is something McGhee said cuts across social, political, racial, religious and other perceived boundaries.
"Our efforts are simplified because we have such generosity in our community," McGhee said. "We've got soup coming one place, we've got bread coming from a couple places, pizza coming from one place, all the salad coming from one place. It's pretty amazing; we are awed by it."
Staff Writer Daniel Kennedy can be reached at 888-3575, or firstname.lastname@example.org.