By Alyssa Schnugg
Whether it was the chilly winter morning making people crave some hot soup or just a drive to help their fellow community members who are in need, hordes of Oxford and Lafayette County citizens made their way to the Oxford Conference Center Thursday morning for the annual Empty Bowls Oxford event.
Before the doors opened at 11 a.m., a line formed from the back of the conference center out to the front door, looping around inside a time or two to avoid standing outside in the cold.
Someone waiting in line had passed out around 10:45 a.m. and an ambulance arrived. The event stalled the start of the popular charitable event, but only for about 10 minutes and some took the time to meet with old friends.
“I always see so many people I know here,” said Jules Carmichael. “It’s so great that so many want to help.”
Empty Bowls raises money for The Pantry — Oxford’s emergency food bank for those hit with hard times. This year, 27 individuals and businesses supplied soup while the Ole Miss Mud Daubers, Northwest MS Community College ceramic students and other local artists supplied more than 1,300 bowls that are all hand made and painted.
For $20, those attending received a bowl of their choice, filled with a soup of their choice, bread and a bottle of water.
The annual event is supported by dozens of volunteers. Among them Thursday was Oxford Mayor Robyn Tannehill and Lafayette County Circuit Court Clerk Jeff Busby.
Oxonian Ron Kitchens decided on some gumbo Thursday. He comes each year to Empty Bowls and now has his own collection.
“I think have about 20 bowls now,” he said.
Like most on Thursday, Kitchens lamented on the recent loss of Empty Bowls’ long-time organizer, Barbara Smith. Smith died earlier this week at the age of 80.
“My dear friend,” he said sadly.
At the end of the table covered in bowls in the middle of the room stood a vase filled with roses and a sign that read “The 2020 Empty Bowls Luncheon is in loving memory of Barbara Smith.”
Dorothy Laurenzo, another organizer, said there was a heavy feeling of sadness among those attending the event and the volunteers who worked alongside Smith for so many years.
“The people are used to seeing her smiling face and her joyous spirit,” Laurenzo said at the event. “We don’t even know all the things she did for this event. It will be some big shoes to fill. We miss her and we’re thinking of her.”