CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Scores of bowls, individual in their shape and size, adorned tabletops as supporters of Manna Meal Inc., carefully inspected and selected their favorite.
Empty Bowls was held Friday evening at St. John's Episcopal Church as part of the organization's sixth-annual "MannaFest," which also served to honor the late Ruth Barton, one of its most heralded volunteers.
Barton was a longtime volunteer and member of Manna Meal's Board of Directors.
"No one knows how long," said Manna Meal Director Jean Simpson. Organization photos featuring Barton date back to the 1970s.
After Barton died two years ago, Manna Meal wanted to honor her. Empty Bowls seemed like the best way to do so, Simpson said.
"Her heart and soul was the belief that no one should go hungry, no matter what their circumstances," Simpson said.
Empty Bowls is a national initiative to "raise awareness and funds in the fight to end hunger," according to the organization's website.
Simpson said the proceeds from Friday's event will stay in Charleston.
The concept is simple: people donate $25 and take their pick of clay bowls made by pottery students at Taylor Books and Capitol Clay Arts Company. A spread of three soups, salad and bread gave an opportunity, not only for food, but also fellowship.
"It's a wonderful thing," said Nedra Porter, who volunteers at Manna Meal with her husband, Thom. "[Manna Meal feeds] people twice a day. It doesn't matter who you are, what your needs are."
Manna Meal has been in Charleston for 38 years, Simpson said. The organization feeds more than 400 people per day and operates seven days a week.