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‘Empty Bowls’ Mean Full Stomachs

A bowl of soup, a piece of bread, and a bottle of water; simple fare maybe, but a message so resoundingly clear that it can make all the difference in the world to someone hungry.

IMG_9131Empty Bowls is a grass roots movement that started in Michigan and is affiliated with local food banks all over the world. In most towns it’s held annually to support these community food banks and is a collaborative effort between local potters and restaurants.

Oxford University United Methodist Church will host the 12th annual Empty Bowls event on Thursday, February 12 from 11a.m. until 1 p.m. For a $20 donation lunch recipients receive a delicious bowl of soup provided by a variety of Oxford restaurants, a beautifully-crafted handmade bowl sculpted by local potters and is theirs to keep, bread and a bottle of water. The proceeds will go to assist the Oxford Food Pantry.

Dorothy Laurenzo is on the local committee for Empty Bowls and believes it’s a great project that really makes a difference for our community.

“It a wonderful way to come together as a community, receive a beautifully handmade, empty bowl that reminds us of all the empty bowls all over the world that remain empty and are just waiting to be filled,” Laurenzo said. “It sends a self-message to those of us who have been blessed and for now don’t have to worry about our next meal, that it’s our responsibility to make sure all people have something to eat, not just the familiar faces around our own table.”

Dorothy Laurenzo
Dorothy Laurenzo

Laurenzo said 23 local restaurants were donating a wide variety of soups to fill those bowls.

“The soups are always phenomenal,” she said. “For a $20 donation the person gets to eat a delicious soup of their choice in a handmade bowl, also of their choice, bread and a bottle of water. And they get to take the bowl home with them when they leave.”

Laurenzo said the fundraiser generally brings in between $12,000 and $16,000 for The Pantry.

“Each year Empty Bowls is a very successful fundraiser for The Pantry,” she said. “We’re so thankful to the people of Oxford for supporting it.”

Laurenzo said with the growing population of need in the community, The Pantry needs as much support as possible.

IMG_8901“The Oxford Food Pantry serves so many people,” Laurenzo said. “It’s just a wonderful organization. Years ago, The Pantry served only on Wednesday mornings and was able to serve everyone in the community who needed it. But it has grown so much in population of need that it’s now open on Wednesday and also on Thursday. If you’re 65 or older then you come to The Pantry on Thursday and Wednesday is for people who are under 65.”

Laurenzo added that almost 100% of the funds they collect from the Empty Bowls event go directly to The Pantry.

“We have very little administrative costs,” she said. “We might have to pay for the tickets that we print for people to get in, but all the soup and bowls are donated. The water and the bread are also donated and all the little things that we need to pull off the event, we ask local businesses to help us with. The people of Oxford have been very generous with this project over the last 12 years. So, it’s a nominal amount of money that is spent on any other expenses. The bulk of the money collected goes straight to The Pantry.”

102_1262Laurenzo said she is always touched by the community interaction and involvement with the event, which shows the compassion for need that the people of Oxford and the surrounding area have for The Pantry.

“I think the community really loves this event,” she said. “It brings people together, no matter their differences, over a common need that is seen in their fellow man.”

The potters who make the beautifully unique bowls that are used for the soup are the Ole Miss Mud Daubers, a group of advanced student ceramicists from the Department of Art and Art History.

“This was really begun 12 years ago by Ron Dale,” Laurenzo said, “an artist, potter and former art professor at Ole Miss and June Rosentreter. After they heard about the movement Empty Bowls, they came together and organized the first event.”

Laurenzo said that every year they have close to 1,000 bowls for the event.

“I believe the total this year is 900 bowls, with 700 coming from the Mud Daubers and the other 200 coming from other local potters, including Ron Dale himself,” she said. “Even the Girl Scouts make bowls for us. And it is so amazing to see all the beautifully different bowls the morning of the event, all lined up along the tables in the church gym. They are so absolutely beautiful. It’s hard for people to pick out just one for their soup; the one that they’re also going to take home with them.”

Empty Bowls is open to the community and everyone is invited to attend.

Angela Rogalski is a HottyToddy.com staff reporter and can be reached at angela.rogalski@hottytoddy.com.

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