A variety of unique handmade ceramic bowls and a variety of soups and breads will highlight the 25th Empty Bowls fundraiser at Wittenberg University on Thursday, March 14. Contributed photo

Annual Empty Bowls project seeks to raise over $50K for Clark County food bank

As far as fundraisers go, Empty Bowls has been one of the area’s most fulfilling projects.

Empty Bowls reaches its milestone 25th anniversary here in 2019. The event has raised more than $497,000 to fight local hunger in its first 24 years and the goal is to aid even more.

Organizers have set a goal to pass the $50,000 mark for the first time when the event returns, 4:30-7 p.m. Thursday, March 14 at Wittenberg University’s Center Dining Room on the second floor of the Benham-Pence Student Center on the campus.

For a minimum donation of $15, guests can choose a unique handcrafted bowl, then enjoy soup and bread from several local vendors and restaurants and keep the bowl as a reminder of those whose bowls remain empty.

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The event is hosted by Wittenberg’s Department of Art in conjunction with Catholic Charities. Proceeds will benefit Springfield’s Second Harvest Food Bank.

Empty Bowls is a national fundraising campaign designed to combat hunger in local communities.

Scott Dooley, Professor of Art at Wittenberg and the faculty coordinator for Empty Bowls, has helped with each of the local events since 2000 and seen steady growth.

The first local Empty Bowls started with 100 bowls and raised approximately $1,000, later averaging $4,000-$5,000. Word of mouth, more sponsors and interest from local restaurants and organizations donating their soup creations and the chance to pick a bowl have helped the total multiply many times over since, with one bowl providing 75 meals.

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“It’s a good concept,” Dooley said. “The community likes they can participate and have dinner with family and friends. One of my former students comes with her mom each year and church groups come and kids have fun picking out bowls.”

People may be surprised at the work that goes in. Dooley spends one weekend a month with students, staff and community potters making and firing the bowls, creating 100-125 on a given day with more than 1,000 for Thursday’s event.

Empty Bowls is the single largest fundraiser of the year for Second Harvest. Second Harvest Springfield executive director Tyra Jackson is impressed with the growth she’s seen in her four years here and values the partnership with Wittenberg and the community’s interest.

She’s consistently seen new faces and sponsors who want to be a part of something positive.

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“What’s so great is it’s so community-based, everyone does a small part and when those parts come together it makes it come alive,” she said.

If the event meets its $50,000 goal, it could mean 250,000 meals for needy area residents.

“That means a lot to us,” Jackson said. “I really hope we can sell out.”

Free parking will be available in the lots behind Krieg Hall and the Benham-Pence Student Center, which have entrances off W. Ward St.

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