Springfield, Ohio – Since 1994, the Wittenberg University Department of Art has held an annual Empty Bowls fundraising event to benefit the community’s Second Harvest Foodbank. The tradition continues from 4-7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 3, in the atrium of the Joseph C. Shouvlin Center for Lifelong Learning, 737 N. Fountain Ave., where diners will be welcomed with an array of handcrafted bowls and a buffet line of bread and soup. For $12 each, guests select a bowl and share in an evening of food and fellowship.
Empty Bowls is a national fund-raiser started in 1990 by a Michigan high school art teacher to help students creatively raise money. A class project producing ceramic bowls evolved, and people were invited to purchase them to benefit local food banks.
The event has become a tradition at Wittenberg and has become so popular that it has grown from 100 to 600 bowls per year. Upon arrival, Empty Bowls’ guests each choose a bowl from the hundreds of original handmade ceramic bowls, and then they are invited to fill those bowls with a variety of soups, salads and bread. Student-designed Empty Bowls T-shirts are also available for purchase for $12 each.
Wittenberg Associate Professor of Art Scott Dooley has spearheaded Empty Bowls since his arrival on campus in 2000, and he admits that he looks forward to the celebration of talents and hard work.
"It focuses our awareness on the fact that art can be used to truly help others in our community," he said.
Communication major Anna List, class of 2010 from Westerville, Ohio, serves as student coordinator for the 2008 event. Her involvement began while studying in Dooley’s ceramics class last fall when he learned of her interest in event planning and working for a non-profit. Dooley asked List if she would be interested in completing her Wittenberg-required community service by working on the event.
“My initial responsibility was getting the bowls made, and we began in my ceramics class last fall,” List said. “In January, we started holding throwing days on Saturdays.”
She added that it was both a lot of work and a lot of fun as faculty, students and staff members threw bowls and shared pizza. Local potter Peter Entorf also contributed bowls he threw in his studio.
All the efforts are to raise money for the Second Harvest Foodbank in Springfield, a program run by Catholic Social Services. Second Harvest receives 100 percent of the proceeds generated by the event. To date, Wittenberg's Empty Bowls events have raised more than $65,000 for Second Harvest, with proceeds in recent years surpassing $7,000 annually.
List’s duties as liaison have included working with Anna Plataniotis, events coordinator for Catholic Social Services/Second Harvest Foodbank, in getting the word out, helping with the food and meeting with donors.
“So far we have over 40 sponsors, including major sponsors donating $1,000 each – Grimes-Kohl VFW Post 1031, the Union Club and the Greek Orthodox Church Ladies Philoptochos Society,” Plataniotis said.
In addition, Bob Evans Restaurant is donating 25 gallons of chili, and Leonardos Villa Restaurant and Plataniotis will make 10-12 gallons of chicken avgolemono soup.
“It’s our chicken noodle soup,” Plataniotis said, “a staple in Greek homes.”
Students at Springfield-Clark Career Technology Center in the culinary arts program at the Springfield-Clark Career Technology Center will donate 12 gallons of vegetable soup, and students in its carpentry department are carving wooden spoons to present as mementos to all event sponsors.
The high percentage of foreclosures in the area and the rising cost of gasoline and other necessities have many people stretched to the limit and have created a greater need for the services of the food pantry.
“We’re finding an increase in first-time visits in our food pantry,” Plataniotis said. “Last year we distributed 2.3 million pounds of food to over 130 member agencies in Clark, Champaign and Logan counties, including homeless shelters and food kitchens. These agencies rely on the food pantry to collect, store and distribute donated food.”
In addition to the shelters and kitchens, residents in need visited these agencies 287,362 times throughout the year and received more than 2.6 million meals. The pantry at 701 E. Columbia St. is open five days a week.
“In Clark County alone our emergency food pantry served up to 33 needy families daily,” Plataniotis said. “The service helps children and their families with a three-day supply of food to help them through a temporary crisis such as illness, reduced work hours, car expenses. Our shop-through pantry allows clients who are in financial crises to choose those items that best meet their nutritional needs of their families.”
Now in the home stretch, List is signing up volunteers to work the day of the event.
“I’ve had students calling me to volunteer to help and volunteers from Catholic Social Services and the community,” List said. “We’ll need three-to-four people to work two hour shifts, and we’ll begin around noon transporting and washing bowls.”
In addition, List has arranged a variety of entertainment, including IMANI Gospel Choir, Just Eve women’s a cappella group and student performers from “Post It,” a coffeehouse series that takes place regularly in Wittenberg’s casual dining room Post 95.
“Working with Anna and her staff, and learning about the Springfield community has been amazing,” List said.
According to Plataniotis, a goal of $21,200 is not out of reach for Wittenberg’s 2008 Empty Bowls event. All food left over from Empty Bowls will be donated to The Rainbow Table I to be served in its soup kitchen the next day.
Free parking is available behind Krieg Hall on Ward Street, as well as in the Benham-Pence Student Center lot. For more information, contact Dooley at (937) 327-6327 or via e-mail.
Written By: Phyllis Eberts