For the first time in 20 years, the Friendship Center’s Empty Bowls fundraiser will not be held.
“It was not an easy decision to take a fast from Empty Bowls this year, but we really decided that at this juncture for us as an organization, we really need to put our energy and time inward toward a strategic planning process,” said executive director Jenny Eck. “Really look at are we still mission and vision aligned.”
For decades the shelter has been dedicated to serving survivors of domestic violence, sexual abuse, and stalking.
Eck noted it’s critical to the organization’s health and sustainability for them to ensure they are meeting the needs of the communities they serve.
“At this point we just think it’s the most responsible thing to do to just take the space to reevaluate ourselves and making sure we’re doing the best possible work we can,” said Eck.
In the six months since Eck has taken over as executive director, she said she’s come to understand just how great a need in the community there is for the shelter’s services.
“We are full all of the time and we’re seeing a need that is hard for us to meet,” explained Eck. “But we have to step back and say, ‘Okay what do we need to do to make sure we are meeting this incredible need in the best way possible?’”
The Friendship Center is the only shelter of its kind in Lewis and Clark, Jefferson, and Broadwater counties.
Eck said a full plan is being developed, but she already sees a need for more preventative education with youth and having a better online and social media presence.
Empty Bowls has drawn more than 1,000 guests each year and brought in thousands of dollars for the Friendship Center.
Eck stated it’s a three-month process to put on the event and likened it to planning a wedding for over 1,000 guests.
“It’s quite a commitment and we just didn’t think we could do it and do it well this year,” said Eck. “We hope that the community understands and know that this doesn’t change what we do.”
In a statement released by the Friendship Center, Board Chairwoman Kirsten Madsen thanked the community for their tremendous support and echoed Eck’s assessment of the situation.
“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,” stated Madsen. “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!”
Eck added although events are great, they need to put the people they serve first.
For more information about the services the Friendship Center provides, you can visit their website here.
-Reported by John Riley/MTN News