COVID-19 has not made Brown County residents abandon charity.

From 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday, Good Samaritan Ministries (GSM) held a scaled down version of its annual Empty Bowls event that raises money for hunger-fighting ministries.

Because of COVID restrictions, the event was not held in its customary location at the Brownwood Coliseum, In that venue, participants dined on soup and received painted bowls after making donations of $10 each in previous years.

This year’s event was held outside GSM’s facility on Clark Street in downtown Brownwood. Staying in their vehicles, participants stopped at stations outside GSM. Staff, GSM board members and spouses collected $10 from each participant and in return gave each person a coupon for one of several area restaurants.

Participants also received the customary painted bowls.

"There was some discussion among our board about going ahead and having the event now or rescheduling," GSM Executive Director Leesa Stephens said.

"With very little difference of opinion, everybody said ‘let’s do it now’ because the need is now. This is hitting families in their budgets now. So we said ‘we know this is not going to look like it has ever looked. It’s going to be completely different."

In previous years, the event has typically drawn about 1,000 participants, Stephens said. Between pre-event sponsorships and the $10 admission cost, the event raises close to $50,000 each year.

""We try to see 1,000 people the day of the event," Stephens said. "We’re going to miss that this year. We’re not going to see the thousand people but we have seen hundreds."

Stephens said she knows this year’s COVID-induced format will bring in less money than in previous years."Today we are grateful for anything," Stephens said. "We’re just grateful to be here."

As in previous years, bowls were painted earlier by school, church and family groups, and local businesses hosted painting parties, Stephens said.

"They were glazed here," she said. "Howard Payne students helped us glaze them and clean them, and then Kohler fires them for us. We’ve also been having a food drive and probably about every other car has had food items."

Ninety percent of the proceeds goes to GSM’s seven hunger ministries, and 10 percent goes to an international hunger relief organization, Stephens said.