ATASCADERO — On Thursday, April 28, the El Camino Homeless Organization, which operates the North County's only homeless shelter, hosted its second annual Empty Bowls Luncheon event.
The event, which took place at Atascadero Bible Church, featured the mouthwatering smells of 22 different soups and four different breads, all donated by local restaurants, Robin Smith of ECHO said.
"There were all kinds of soups including non-gluten and vegetarian," Smith said. "I tried the chicken dumpling and that was just fabulous."
More than 500 guests attended the event and while a majority of the seating was inside, guests also enjoyed their meals outside on the front patio.
"Next year, weather permitting, we want to include even more outside seating," Smith said. "It was so nice out!"
This year's luncheon raised approximately $27,000, all of which will be put toward the shelter's year-long fundraising operations.
"This event is a great opportunity for people to learn how and who to connect with to help make a difference," Smith said.
The bowls, which were hand-crafted by local artists, students and professionals, were served with fabric and knitted items, Smith said.
"We tried to spread the items out in such a way that there was a huge selection all throughout the luncheon, but people were still fighting over bowls!" Smith said. "It's important for ticket holders to remember though that they can't always wait to get their favorite bowl at the end because it will probably be gone by then!"
Regardless of which bowl guests left with, the day was undoubtedly successful.
"We always make sure to have more bowls than there are people, but this year we only had 100 left," Smith said. "That's really not that much. In fact, it was a lot better than we'd planned for."
A collaborative effort, the fundraiser highlighted community involvement here in the North County. Representatives from several local organizations — Paso Robles Mayor Steve Martin, Atascadero Mayor Tom O'Malley, Sheriff Ian Parkinson, Atascadero Police Chief Jerel Haley and KPRL radio host Jaime Umphenour and more — came together to serve food and meet with the general public.
"This is a very important fundraiser for us," Smith said. "People generally think the homeless rely solely on government funding, but in reality they actually also rely heavily on donations. This event is a great opportunity for people to learn how and who to connect with to help make a difference."
For more information on how to volunteer with ECHO, call 805-462-3663. For information regarding ECHO's intake process, contact shelter coordinator Kathleen Brintnall at 805-539-7504.