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Empty Bowls 2020 event to take place with new format

Published: Oct. 28, 2020 at 7:23 PM CDT
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - Marathon County’s largest food bank, The Neighbors' Place, has provided food for over 500 new families since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March. As that number continues to grow, fundraisers like the Empty Bowls 2020 event are more important than ever.

“It is something people look forward to, it gives them hope; it’s a sense of community,” explained Donna Ambrose, Executive Director at The Neighbors' Place. “It is something that everybody can participate in so the idea of not doing it just wasn’t really fathomable.”

The Empty Bowls event serves as the organization’s flagship event. Held every year the weekend before Thanksgiving, it usually draws around a thousand hungry patrons who can purchase hand-crafted bowls, eat soup, and participate in a silent auction.

“We did not feel safe planning an event that typically garners a thousand-plus attendees,” explain Mallory McGivern, Community Impact Manager at The Neighbors' Place. “We’ve been trying to rack our brains and kind of come up with an idea that’s both innovative but also really welcoming for people to participate in whatever capacity they want to.”

People will still be able to purchase bowls and soup as well as participate in the silent auction, but the event will take place over a two-week period.

“People can purchase bowls out at various bowl stops, so those are local businesses that are partnering with us this year to sell the hand-made and hand-painted bowls,” McGivern explained. “People can also purchase soup at our soup stops; local restaurants that have partnered with us this year.”

The ‘Bowl Stops’ will be in operation November 8 through November 21 while the ‘Soup Stops’ will be operational November 15 through November 21. A list of participating businesses can be found on the Neighbors' Place’s website here.

50 percent of all soup proceeds will go back to the Neighbors' Place.

The small silent auction will take place beginning November 8 and last until November 21. The Neighbors' Place plans to hold a virtual ‘Thank You’ event on November 21 to thank participants and announce winners.

McGivern says during a time when a lot of businesses have struggled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was a pleasant surprise to have so many businesses, over 15, be willing to participate.

“The overwhelming response was ‘Yes, how can I get involved?’” McGivern said. “People have been so supportive of this event.”

That support and using other Empty Bowls events as a reference has both McGivern and Ambrose excited for the November tradition, and confident that it will go off without a hitch.

“Thankfully, there are Empty Bowls events happening throughout the United States so we were able to kind of able to check out what other people were doing and look for those best practices,” Ambrose said. “We think we’ve got a really solid plan and we’re really thrilled about because not only is it giving people an opportunity to participate, but to help our small businesses, help our restaurants. It’s truly a community event.”

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