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HUNTINGTON — Last month, Empty Bowls announced its annual event scheduled for April 3 would be canceled due to novel coronavirus concerns, breaking a string of 17 years the fundraiser has been held to benefit Facing Hunger Foodbank.

But thanks to a partnership between Marshall University and the Pottery Place of downtown Huntington as well as local sponsors, alternative online sales will ensure bowls still end up in the hands of patrons and funds continue to flow into the food bank.

“I ran across a friend that worked with the food bank who let me know they weren’t doing the fundraiser this year and it kind of hurt my heart to hear that,” Jessica Stone, owner of the Pottery Place, said. “We brainstormed how my businesses could get involved, and we decided we could push it through our doors and still make it safe.”

Empty Bowls typically raises between $15,000 and $18,000 each year with the sale of more than 1,000 handmade bowls at $15 each. Under normal circumstances, the bowl would come with a “modest lunch” to emulate that of a soup kitchen — a small portion of soup, bread and a drink. The sale of bowls supported about 112 meals for those in need at Facing Hunger Foodbank.

About 500 bowls were created this year by Marshall students and local potters before the state shutdown, and Stone said the website allowing people to purchase the pieces for curbside pickup at the Pottery Place launched Wednesday evening.

“All of the sales happened when our doors were closed, and at this point we have sold about 280 bowls. We woke up this morning and said, ‘Wow,’” Stone said. “Our community has really rallied and come together, and I hope people who feel locked down and unable to help can at least purchase a bowl.”

People interested in browsing the inventory of bowls can go to

Once purchased, the customer will receive an email with pickup day and time instructions. Proceeds go directly to Facing Hunger Foodbank.

Stone said the Pottery Place is also looking for sponsorships from local businesses or individuals to help offset costs to keep the process going.

“It boils down to about $4 per bowl sold for labor and packaging, but we aren’t taking that out of the bowls,” she said. “A sponsorship makes sure employees can be there to make this work.”

Those interested in a sponsorship or matching donations for the food bank can find more information on the Pottery Place’s website.

Follow reporter Hanna Pennington via Twitter @hpennHD.

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