More than 200 gather to help fight hunger with Empty Bowls

Monday, November 5, 2012
Leticia Paz, left, and Lauren Allen look over the offerings at the Empty Bowls Project Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012 at the Salvation Army in Cape Girardeau. (Fred Lynch)

About 225 people gathered Sunday afternoon at the Salvation Army in Cape Girardeau in support of the seventh annual Empty Bowls Banquet. The dinner is one of the major fundraisers for the Salvation Army's community meals programs.

The event is the result of a year of involvement on the part of community members to fight local hunger. Early in the year, artists began making the pottery to ensure plenty of bowls were available to paint. Then groups, such as Scouts, school groups, artists and individuals painted the bowls before they were fired. The bowls were sold at the banquet and to help raise money.

Southeast Missouri State University art professors Benji Heu and Nick Toebaas, who are potters, encouraged their students to make and donate to the cause.

"We got 50 from the students at the Art Department from Nick and Benji," said Caroline Kahler, the Art Department chairwoman at the River Campus.

Kayla McCabe of Advance, Mo., and Rachel Weatherford of St. Louis attended together.

"I didn't know what to expect, so I got here right at noon. I saw this one bowl," Weatherford said, indicating the bowl she was holding. "Then I went and looked at others, but I kept going back to this one particular bowl."

A lot of diversity was on display. There were sleek and artistic bowls beside whimsical and cute ones. One rust-colored bowl that resembled a pie plate was adorned with the symbol of pi.

Major Beth Stillwell of the Salvation Army was pleased with the attendance.

"It is very much needed," Stillwell said. "The pantry is down to corn and beans. We give out food on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. We will be providing big, conventional Thanksgiving dinners to families in Cape Girardeau County."

Linda Bohnsack, the co-chairwoman for the event, has worked on the banquet for seven years. She said working with Empty Bowls inspired her to become a potter three years ago.

"God put it on my heart to help," Bohnsack said. "It's the perfect opportunity to put my enthusiasm and passion with my skills for the community."

When Bohnsack's husband rented to a new Cape Girardeau resident last year, he mentioned they were involved in Empty Bowls. That resident was Kahler, who had just moved from Kansas City, Mo., where she had been involved with Empty Bowls.

"I was really excited because I was hoping something like this was in the area," Kahler said.

She spent the summer helping Linda Bohnsack make bowls.

"I believe strongly these are the kinds of things that define a community," Kahler said.

Macie Werner, 15, of Jackson wants to help paint bowls.

"I think it's for a good cause," she said. "Get to spend your time painting a specific bowl and it's going to a good event."

Attendees were asked for $12 for a bowl and the meal, but some gave more.

"A lot of tables have filled up, then left and filled up again," said Katrina Dekker of Mount Vernon, Ill., a dietetic major at Southeast. "It's been pretty steady. There have been a lot of extra donations. A lot of people giving 20s and not wanting change. One guy gave $100 for him and his wife. That was pretty awesome."

Some bowls were auctioned off last week at the Arts Council of Southeast Missouri. Bohnsack said they wouldn't have a final amount raised until probably Tuesday.

There will be a booth where bowls can be purchased Nov. 17 and 18 during the Arts and Crafts Extravaganza at the Osage Centre.

The next major fundraisers for the Salvation Army's community meals programs will be the canned-food drive Dec. 1 at Wehrenberg Theatre in Cape Girardeau, and the Red Kettle drive during Christmas.

Pertinent address:

701 Good Hope St., Cape Girardeau, Mo.

Map of pertinent addresses

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