ARROYO GRANDE, Calif. -

Several hundred people came out on Thursday to help support the 5th annual Empty Bowls luncheon, the largest yearly fundraiser for the 5Cities Homeless Coalition. Organizers said the event raised $30,000.

"It is an opportunity where the whole community comes together to support the Coalition and our efforts to serve the homeless here in the South County," said Janna Nichols, Executive Director, 5Cities Homeless Coalition.

Held at St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Arroyo Grande, Empty Bowls brought out more than 600 people who were served nearly 100 gallons of various soups donated by several local restaurants.

"The restaurants are just awesome for donating their soups," said Mike Bryd, President, Board of Directors, 5Cities Homeless Coalition. "Everything here virtually is donated, so the community really comes together on this event, and that is what makes it so rewarding. It's not just us doing it, it's the whole community coming together to help our homeless neighbors."

Both Nichols and Byrd stressed the funds generated by the event are needed this year more than ever.

"We're seeing about twice the number of requests since last year. It's been a challenging year for us to keep up with demand," said Nichols. "Rental prices have increased. It's difficult to get people into housing and there are a number of challenges with our homeless, so we're really appreciative of everyone who is coming out here today to help us."

For a donation of $25, guests were able to chose a unique ceramic bowl, handcrafted by one of hundreds of local artists. Many of the bowls were created by professional potters, while others were crafted by students at various local schools, such as Allan Hancock College, Arroyo Grande and Lopez High Schools, and Oceano Elementary.

Guests were served by a variety of "VIP servers," which included members of local media, law enforcement, county government and area churches. Among those serving included KCOY anchors Scott Hennessee and Melissa Mahan.

"We couldn't do with without our community," said Nichols. "We couldn't do it without service providers in the faith community, service groups. There are a number of organizations that come together to address the challenges of homelessness in the South County. It is really remarkable and we're extremely grateful for the generosity that the community shows."

Nearly 200 volunteers donated their time before and during the two-and-half-hour event.

"The funds that are raised here today will go to a variety of places," said Nichols. "Some of the funds will go to direct financial assistance, some to program support and staff and some to general operating expenses."

Those who are interested in assisting the 5Cities Homeless Coalition can visit http://www.5CHC.org