Community fills Empty Bowls event

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Andrew Cryer

CULLMAN – Beautiful spring-like weather brought people out in droves to First United Methodist Church Cullman (FUMC) on Monday afternoon. The church hosted the 14th Annual Empty Bowls of Cullman County Chili Dinner. Guests enjoyed live entertainment, a silent auction and of course chili, all for a good cause. Proceeds from the event go to the Cullman Caring for Kids United Way food bank; for every dollar raised, seven pounds of food will be purchased to help feed the hungry in the Cullman County area.

Tanya Shearer is the coordinator, and founder, of the annual Empty Bowls event. She says she views the event as a blessing, and loves seeing everyone in the community come together to help those in need. When the first event was held, roughly 600 people came, raising more than $5,000. Every year since then, the event has grown. Over the course of 13 years, more than $131,000 has been raised.  Shearer says she hopes to match and even exceed last year’s donated amount of $15,368.

Carol McFee, who oversaw the silent auction, said it went really well. The bidding was completed at 5:45, and there were more items than ever before.

Bobby Noley is the head chef for the event, and has been since the first Empty Bowls dinner in 2003. Noley says he’s only run out of chili one year, but he hopes to come close every year, because that means more help for the food bank. Noley says it takes him about four hours to cook the 80-90 gallons of chili served, and he uses more than 180 pounds of ground beef. Most of the ingredients were donated or purchased at a discounted price.   

Todd Henderson is in his first year as head pastor of First United Methodist Church Cullman, and he was very happy with the turnout. “It’s a community-wide effort, and we’re proud to be a part of it,” Henderson said. He says the church plans to support the event for years to come, and many of the volunteers are church members themselves. The church uses the event as an outreach event as well.

For her years of service, Cullman Caring for Kids Executive Director Javon Daniel presented Shearer with an award.

“I want to thank the church for hosting the event, St. Bernard for allowing us to cook the chili there and all of those who volunteers and those in the community who make the event possible,” said Shearer. “I am extremely grateful, and I look forward to helping more people in the future as this event continues to grow.”

 

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