The stacks of wooden and ceramic bowls that currently adorn Glory Hole Director Mariya Lovishchuck’s desk won’t be there for long. And — depending on how things go this weekend — neither will the business cards she keeps in her drawer.
Come Sunday, the bowls will find new homes as a part of the 26th annual Empty Bowls fundraiser, the homeless shelter’s biggest fundraiser of the year. By the end of the event, the business cards might be outdated. As a part of this year’s fundraiser, the Glory Hole will be asking participants to suggest a new name for the shelter.
“We’re not sure that we’re going to change the name. We are a community organization, so we’re going to be listening to the community and to our patrons,” Lovishchuck said. “We kind of felt that Empty Bowls was a good sample of people to hear from.”
The Glory Hole Board of Directors has decided to start thinking about changing the shelter’s name in response to “weird national publicity” and pressure from a few donors.
The shelter, founded in 1982, gets its name from an old mining term and is a nod to Juneau’s mining past. A sidetrail off Perseverance Trail on Mount Juneau leads to the A.J. Glory Hole, where miners blasted rock and created a huge open-faced pit, which made for easy ore mining.
The term glory hole is also sexual slang — a fact known by anybody who has made the mistake of going to gloryhole.com in search of the shelter’s webpage (feedjuneau.org).
Last year, the Glory Hole made headlines in Jezebel and Boing Boing, both online blogs, after they picked up an Empire story about the shelter. Both blogs joked about the shelter’s name.
“I thought that maybe we could get some donations from all of the national attention, but we only got $67,” Lovishchuck said.
But this was hardly the first time that the shelter’s name has been a punch line. It’s not uncommon to see tourists snapping pictures of the shelter’s sign while snickering in the summer, and David Letterman has even joked about the shelter’s name on his show, Lovishchuck said.
“Every week I get at least one call or email saying, ‘I’m from Pennsylvania or I’m from New York, and I’m looking at your website. You do great work, but do you know what glory hole means?’” Lovishchuck said. She added that whenever she writes grants she has to spend at least three paragraphs explaining what the Glory Hole is and — perhaps more importantly — what it is not.
Though the burden of explanation falls most frequently on Lovishchuck, she is not driving the name change discussion.
Because of the shelter’s involvement with the Juneau Housing First Project, Lovishchuck said that she has been talking to funders a lot more. Recently, two major donors, whom she wouldn’t name, expressed concern about the Glory Hole’s name.
“It’s been brought up before by many parties, but this was kind of the straw that broke the camel’s back,” she said. “Basically everybody who you talk to from outside of Juneau brings up the name. If it were a funny name, it wouldn’t be such a big deal; it’s because of what it means.”
Participants at Sunday’s fundraiser event will be able to write down name suggestions and place them in a large collection box. Those who don’t want the shelter’s name to change can also voice their opinions. Lovishchuck made sure to note that the Glory Hole’s name is not sure to change. Rather, its board of directors just wants to open a community discussion.
“Who knows, maybe somebody will come up with a great new name, and it will be perfect,” Lovishchuck said.
In addition to suggesting a new name for the Glory Hole, Empty Bowls participants will be able to eat soups donated by local restaurants and take home one of about 450 wooden and ceramic bowls crafted by local artisans. As the event’s name may suggest the bowls are typically one of the most enticing aspects of the fundraiser.
Mercedes Muñoz, the ceramics studio manager for the Canvas, is glazing the last of the roughly 200 ceramic bowls that the studio will donate to the event. This is Muñoz’s second year making bowls for fundraiser, a laborious but rewarding chore.
All told, the job requires about 500 pounds of clay and two and a half three-gallon buckets of glaze, one of which usually suffices for months of regular studio use. She personally made between 100 to 150 bowls for the event. The rest were thrown by community members using the studio who wanted to lend a hand.
“I think it’s more special when they’re made by more than one person,” she said. “It’s really a community effort, and that speaks to the event itself. I feel very honored to be a part of it.”
Tickets for Empty Bowls are on sale now at Hearthside Books. They cost $30 per adult and $15 dollars per child under the age of 12. Children younger than 4 get in free, but bowls only come with the purchase of a full-priced ticket.
The event will run from 5-7 p.m. at Centennial Hall.