Despite the heat wave Wednesday, hundreds gathered at the 20th annual Empty Bowls fundraiser in Santa Maria to enjoy soup, take home a bowl and, most importantly, help end hunger in the community.

For Santa Maria couple Teri and Allan Hansen, who attend both the Santa Maria and Lompoc Empty Bowls events every chance they get, the heat didn't bother them.

"We're routine donors of the Foodbank and we try to give back to the community as much as we can," Teri said. "Being able to return to Empty Bowls every year is a great feeling because we know the money's going towards a wonderful cause." 

Every year, the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County provides 10 million pounds of healthy food and produce in the community. The Empty Bowls event is just another way for the organization to help address the health and hunger issues plaguing those in need, organizers say. 

Vanessa Grossman, publicity coordinator for Santa Maria Empty Bowls, which was held at the Fairpark and saw over 500 attendees Wednesday, said the organization looks forward to raising money and awareness every year. 

"Every dollar feeds eight people," she said. "Imagine how much we can help out today -- every cent we get today goes straight towards the community in need." 

For every $25 ticket donation, attendees got to choose a beautiful, unique bowl created by local ceramicists. The event also featured a raffle extravaganza that included a selection of wines, restaurant and entertainment certificates, jewelry and much more. 

Soups were donated by local restaurants, businesses and schools. Each handmade ceramic bowl was donated by different organizations and students from Righetti, St. Joseph's and Orcutt Academy high schools, as well as Hancock College. 

Sign up to receive headlines in your inbox!

Breaking News | Local Sports | Daily Headlines | Local Obituaries | Weather | Local Offers

For Allan, while there are a lot of things the less fortunate may need -- from clothes to housing -- the importance of food and nutrition are areas he believes the community at large should understand. 

"Personally for me, growing up, it was always drummed into my brain that not everyone is as fortunate to have a regular nutritious meal to eat," said Allan, whose parents lived through the Great Depression. 

The pair are also huge fans of all the unique bowls they get to take home, which Teri said she makes the most use out of when entertaining guests. 

"We always make a point to come back," Teri said. "The heat doesn't bother us too much today; it will take a lot more heat than this to keep us from giving back." 

Attendance remained high this year for both the first seating at 11:30 a.m. and the second seating at 12:30 p.m. Organizers were pleased by the turnout, Grossman said. 

"The fact that people braved the heat to come here, whether they wanted to try some soup or take home a bowl, reminds us that everyone's supporting the cause in some way or another," she added. 

Grossman hopes guests remember why they lined up to fill their bowls, which may spur them to help those in need. 

"If they know someone in need, ask how they can support them in any way they can," she said. 

Gina Kim covers crime and courts for Santa Maria Times. Follow her on Twitter @gina_k210