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1:40 AM Sun, Sept. 23rd

Empty Bowls commemorates 10 years of fighting hunger

PRESCOTT - A group of nearly 50 hungry people lined up Sunday morning, an hour in advance, waiting for their bowl of soup. By the time the serving began, more than 200 people were already in line.

"It's 11 o'clock," said Todd Bulock. "Let's rock, chefs."

Those who patiently waited in line to participate in the Empty Bowls event on the courthouse plaza in Prescott purchased handmade bowls local artists donated and enjoyed their selection of the soups local chefs prepared for the event.

Bulock, the chef coordinator for the event, said that 100 percent of the proceeds from the event go to food banks in Yavapai County. While the event originally mirrored the "soup kitchen" concept of a food bank, Bulock was quick to acknowledge that the gourmet selection of 15 soups was a cut above anything available at a food bank.

"We've had more chefs volunteer than we've had space to accommodate," said Bulock. "To me, it's proof that this community always comes together for a good cause."

Bulock said that this year is the 10th anniversary of the Empty Bowls event in Prescott, and that he work-ed with chefs who participated in the event over the years to assemble a commemorative recipe book.

"These are some of the very finest soups," said Bulock. "Many have donated 10 gallons of their soup for the event, and their soup recipe for the cookbook. We're selling the cookbook for $10, and we expect it will be a popular item."

Nancy Reid-McKee, co-coordinator for the event, said that the local Empty Bowls event is put on by the Unitarian Universalist Church's congregation, in conjunction with the Girl Scouts, local chefs, artists, and businesses that donated bread, water and supplies.

"The event started with some students who wanted to see what it was like to be hungry, homeless, and wait in line for a soup kitchen," said Reid-McKee. "The idea has spread across the country since then, and it's evolved from there. That's why it's called 'Empty Bowls' - because there's so many people with empty bowls we hope we can help fill."

The Empty Bowls event has grown considerably since its humble beginnings as a church event which generated $250 10 years ago, according to Eunice Ricklefs, Empty Bowls co-coordinator.

"Now, we typically make about $12,000 each year," said Ricklefs. "With the cookbooks and 10th anniversary T-shirts this year, we expect even more. Last year over 800 people bought bowls and enjoyed soup. That's a lot of people for just three hours. It's a very busy soup kitchen we run here."

Adrienne Sharp and her mother, Aline Sharp, of Prescott, were two of the people, among hundreds of others, who purchased bowls and soup Sunday.

"It's my mother's first year, but I've participated in the Empty Bowls event for several years," said Adrienne. "It's absolutely my favorite city event. I can help the community out, and I get a very nice bowl. This year, I think, is my sixth. I'm getting quite a collection."

For more information on Empty Bowls or the 10th anniversary soup cookbook, called Ricklefs at 771-9559.

Contact the reporter at dmeurer@prescottaz.com