The Friendship Center in Helena has announced it is canceling its popular Empty Bowls fundraiser this year to focus on "a much needed internal board and staff strategic planning process."
The event has been held each year for more than a decade, usually in April to coincide with Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Empty Bowls draws more than 1,000 guests, who get a locally made ceramic bowl and unlimited soup and bread, and enjoy local entertainment.
The Friendship Center is the only shelter in Lewis and Clark, Jefferson, and Broadwater counties dedicated to serving survivors of domestic violence, sexual abuse and stalking. It provides shelter and a broad range of support services to anyone who has suffered from these types of violence.
“We decided this year that if we were really going to be able to go through the in-depth planning process that this organization deserves, we needed to take a 'fast' from Empty Bowls," said Kirsten Madsen, the Friendship Center’s board chairwoman."... Imagine putting on a wedding for over 1,000 guests. That’s the level of commitment it takes to put on the Empty Bowls event each year.”
Even with strong community support from volunteers and businesses, Madsen said the event takes the board and staff three months of planning and preparation to put on.
“With a new executive director, it’s the right time to turn that energy inward toward evaluating how and what we’re doing, reaffirm our goals and plan our way forward,” she said.
Executive Director Jenny Eck, who took over leadership of the organization in July, said “We are so very grateful to the Helena community for the incredible support they give to the Friendship Center. Without the support of local donors, we couldn’t keep our doors open. We love putting on Empty Bowls each year — it’s a ‘friend-raiser’ as well as a fundraiser. We hope that the community will understand how important it is that we take this time to step back and commit time and energy to our strategic planning process.”
She added, “It is critical to the organizational health and sustainability of the Friendship Center that we take the necessary time to re-evaluate our internal organizational policies and procedures to ensure that we are still functioning in full alignment with our mission and vision.”
Madsen agreed: “As hard as it is to give up Empty Bowls this year, I trust that our donors will understand that this is the responsible course to ensure the best possible services to those in need in our community. This doesn’t mean we don’t need financial support — we absolutely do!”
Provided by The Friendship Center