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Empty Bowls supports more than just food needs

Posted: May 11, 2011 - 6:17pm

Empty Bowls, The Glory Hole’s annual fundraising dinner, is a literal reminder of the facility’s role in feeding community members who may not be able to afford a good meal. It also an opportunity for locals to support the full range of functions that Glory Hole provides — it’s not only as a soup kitchen, but a central source for a wide range of services geared toward helping patrons regain independence.

Executive Director Mariya Lovishchuk said some basic services can’t be paid for with money from grants, as those funds are often issued to fulfill specific purposes or projects.

“I cant just use grant funds for anything I want, those funds are really restricted,” she said.

Empty Bowls, the Glory Hole’s only fundraiser, is a major source of funding. The proceeds from the dinner are funneled into what Lovishchuk calls “general funds,” which cover everything from operational expenses to utilities to vehicle expenses.

“Empty Bowls is one part of that but it’s a really big part,” she said.

The graph at right shows how the funds received during Empty Bowls might be distributed. Here’s a closer look at each category.

• Client services

This category ranges from random expenses such as bus fare to money for new clothes. Lovishchuk said though the shelter often receives clothing donations, they don’t always fit or may not be appropriate for the clients’ needs. A job interview, for example, may require new clothes and a haircut.

• Utlilities and repairs

The water and sewer bill is taken care of by the city, but the shelter pays all other utilities, including electric. Given the volume of clients, appliances are heavily used, making both the utility bill and repair bill high. Last year for example, according to Glory Hole statistics, 1,865 loads of laundry were done on site. Lovishchuk said she tries to get patrons to fix broken appliances whenever possible.

• Vehicle expenses

The Glory Hole has a van, which is used to pick up food donations from the Food Bank and help them make their deliveries. It is also used to pick up food from donors Costco, Safeway, Breeze In, Food Services of America, Rainbow Foods, Walmart, Alaska Marine Lines and other vendors. And it’s used to deliver food to various locations, such as schools that have homeless students enrolled.

The van is occasionally used to give rides to patrons if they can’t take public transportation.

• Operational expenses

This category covers unexpected projects and structural repairs grants aren’t designed to cover. Recently, for example, the ceiling of the day room fell in. Operational funds were used to get it fixed.

The money also goes toward expenses such as kitchen supplies, toilet paper, office supplies, razors and others items.

• Salaries

The general fund is also used to help pay Glory Hole salaries. Lovishchuk recently raised the salaries of her patron workers, a decision she said was based on the idea that the employees need to make enough to work their way out of the shelter. What they had been making was not enough to allow that to happen, considering the high price of rent in Juneau.

“You’re not really helping people if can’t pay them a living wage,” she said.

In addition to Lovishchuk, Glory Hole employees include a shelter manager, who works as a volunteer, Special Projects Coordinator Ray Cole, and five people working split shifts in the kitchen, one of whom is not a patron.

“We have 43 people sleeping upstairs on any given night and we’re serving at least 70 meals any given day. At the very least. And we only do that with me, one staff member and a shelter manager and Ray. It really is amazing how much we do.

The shelter also gets help from “tons of volunteers.”

Over the past year, Lovishchuk said she has seen two trends, one in the dining room and the other in the shelter. In the dining room, more kids are coming in to eat.

“I’ve been seeing a lot of kids and I’ve been seeing a lot of teenage kids.”

And in the shelter, she’s seeing more female patrons.

“The number of women who stay here is way up, and I think that’s consistent with the national trend.”

The number of women with children is also up nationally, she said, but the Glory Hole hasn’t seen an increase in that demographic so far.

Overall, numbers are up.

“March numbers were up a ton from last year, between 20 and 30 percent up.

With the opening of local campgrounds, those figures have since gone down, but given the heavy use so far this year, Lovishchuk is worried about making ends meet.

She’s already had to scale back on the quality of the meals provided to patrons. The shelter often receives adequate donations of bread, muffins and cakes, for example, but few vegetables.

“We can always feed people but the quality of food is an issue,” she said.

“We will probably be able to provide meals but we won’t be able to increase or maintain the quality of the meals. And I think its really important to feed people a good meal.”

Last year, from January through December, the Glory hole served 8,717 breakfasts, 14,475 lunches, 2,628 sack lunches and 20,690 dinners, totaling 46,510 meals.

They provided a total of 9,656 beds — 1,066 for women and 8,650 for men.

She expressed gratefulness toward the community for the huge outpouring of support at Christmas, and hopes locals will still make a point of attending Empty Bowls.

“It takes the whole town to make this place go,” she said.

•••

Empty Bowls runs from 5-7 p.m. Sunday at Centennial Hall.

Diners can select a homemade bowl from which to have a simple meal of soup and bread, then keep the bowl as a reminder that there are empty bowls everywhere in the world.

This year’s program will feature musical entertainment and a silent auction. Tickets are $30

For more information, call 586-4159 or visit www.feedjuneau.org

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