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Fundraiser takes hit; organizers revise plans

BY LAUREL BLACK lblack@paducahsun.com

Paducah's Empty Bowls Project saw a dip in fundraising in 2014, but volunteers hope changes in their strategy and a kinder winter will bring more money next year.

Community Ministries board member Camillia Madden accepted a check for $14,400 from Empty Bowls co-organizer Michael Terra and volunteers Jo Dortch and Jon Rodabaugh on Wednesday at the Community Kitchen, 1225 Broadway.

While the amount marked a decrease from last year's $20,000, it still goes a long way toward helping the kitchen, Madden said.

"It is a huge blessing to have an income that comes in a lump sum. You're able to help provide for a couple hundred people who eat here every day and know that God always provides," she said.

Volunteers said snow and ice kept potential attendees indoors during the Feb. 15 fundraising event. The meal was also scheduled for the same day and time frame as the West Kentucky Polar Plunge, a benefit for the Special Olympics that takes place at Kentucky Lake.

"It just worked out that two wonderful, important things were happening at the same time. And we fixed that for next year," Terra said.

But there won't be a major change in the event date, as Terra said a February fundraiser is most effective in terms of meeting the Community Kitchen's needs. During the growing and harvest seasons, farmers drop off extra produce at the kitchen, and holiday giving provides for the charity in mid-winter. But without Empty Bowls, early spring would be a dry time, he said.

"To be able to hand them a check like this when they're most at risk seems to be the best strategy," he said.

Terra said he and other volunteers have already begun crafting the ceramic bowls for next year's event, heading off the time crunch that comes when volunteers try to make, glaze and fire the bowls during the same weeks in fall.

"This year, we ended up with a huge amount of work right at the end," he said. "There was a lot of pressure and a lot of man hours compressed into a very small number of days."

The check presentation marked the conclusion of the project's fourth year in Paducah. For a $15 ticket, diners purchase a handmade bowl and a meal donated from local restaurants at the downtown Convention Center. The work is strictly volunteer, and all the proceeds go to the Community Kitchen, which feeds an average of 900 people a week.

"It's heartwarming to know that we can feed hungry people, because there's obviously a need," Rodabaugh said. "Everybody gets something out of it, more than just writing a check."

Empty Bowls is an international grassroots movement to fight hunger, and several counties in the Purchase region, including Calloway, Graves and Marshall, hold their own Empty Bowls fundraisers.

Contact Laurel Black, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8641, or follow @LaurelFBlack on Twitter.

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