Saturday, the Grand Valley Catholic Outreach held its 13th annual Empty Bowls event, to help raise funds for its increasingly busy soup kitchen, as tough economic times take their toll on the charity.
Empty bowls and a full house -- more than 600 people packed the halls of the Grand Valley Catholic Outreach Saturday afternoon to enjoy soup and help a good cause -- help that Outrach officials say they find themselves needing more and more of.
"What I've noticed is that we have a six percent increase of people coming to get a meal," said Sister Karen Bland, Director of the Catholic Outreach.
Bland says the soup kitchen has served more than 72,000 meals this year. She believes the increase is due in part to a slumping national economy, as it becomes more and more difficult for some in the Grand Valley to pay their mortgage and the food bill.
"One of the things we tell them is keep a roof over your head, you can always find a meal," said Bland. "So we're seeing more and more people who might have a home but they can't get through the month on their earnings."
Bland says that's exactly why events like Empty Bowls are so important. But she adds not even the thousands of dollars the event will bring in will not be enough to meet the growing demand for Outreach services.
"An event like this will help us for maybe a month or two," said Bland. "Then the supplies go down."
In light of everything, Bland says she's touched by the response and support of the community during a time when most are thinking about saving money.
"Today's event shows that that generosity is not going to go away because even as people are worried they're still thinking about others," said Bland.
People like Gerry Coffey and Julie Ketchum-Smith says it's that giving spirit that brought them and their families to the Catholic Outreach Saturday afternoon.
"We came to do what we can," said Coffey. "Because there are people who are a lot worse off than we are."
"I think the community comes together for these things even when times are bad to help other people," said Ketchum-Smith. "That's what we see in the Valley here."
It's a community spirit the Catholic Outreach hopes it will continue seeing in the uncertain months ahead.
The Catholic Outreach says it is always in need of donations. Canned food items and money can be dropped off at their building on First Street.