Helping to feed the hungry is a nationwide effort provided by many community programs and food pantries across the U.S. One such program is the Empty Bowls Charity which began as a project by Michigan school teacher John Harton in 1990. Harton’s students crafted ceramic bowls in their high school art classes and the finished works were used as individual serving pieces for a fundraising meal of soup and bread, where the guests kept the empty bowls.
In the southern portion of Ohio in the city of Marietta, the Empty Bowls Program started out 15 years ago at The First Unitarian Universalist Society of Marietta (FUUSM) with Caroline Putnum, Cynthia Ting and other administrators organizing the outreach program. After 2 years, the Empty Bowls lunch event out grew the facility, and it was moved in 2001 to the The First Congregational United Church of Christ (UCC), where it expanded into a co-operative project with St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the FUUSM. The program grew each year and in 2013 it served 8000 people in Washington County. Caroline said, “It takes all 3 churches to get the event together. Adults and children may purchase lunch for $5, where Church members present bread & butter donated by Panera Bread, serve homemade cookies made by church members, and provide hot and cold beverages along with the soup that is donated by many establishments in the Marietta area.” These businesses include the historic Lafayette Hotel, The Levee House, The Marietta Brewing Company, BlackSmith Barbecue, Tiber Way Grille, The Galley, Day Dreams Cafe, Third Street Deli, The Buckley House, Spagna’s Italian Restaurant, Marietta College Dining & Catering Services, and The House of Wines in Devola. On average throughout the years, each single afternoon luncheon has provided $2700 from all who partake in the event, where proceeds are donated to the Marietta Community Food Pantry each year.
What makes the event extra special is how the soup can be provided. For the price of $10, you will receive everything as mentioned above plus the soup will be poured into a handcrafted ceramic bowl that can be taken home when your lunch is finished. According to Caroline, the idea to support the local area pantries in this fashion originated from the Marietta area potters, who fashion the bowls in conjunction with the art and pottery student hands coming from West Virginia University of Parkersburg with professor Zach Orcutt; Parkersburg High School with instructor, Jonathan Walsh; Harmar Elementary School 5th graders with teacher Julie Brewer, and Frontier High Middle School class (above) with their art & pottery department educator, Joyce Tharp.
What is new for the 2014 Empty Bowls Program is the addition of wood bowls turned by West Virginia’s own Codger Lodge Woodworking Club.
The group has an open door policy and meets every “Turning” Tuesday. Starting around 9-10 am with the typical donuts and coffee, the sometimes 15-20 plus in attendance exchange ideas, show and tell their artisan crafts, and proceed up to the lunch time with various project fun, camaraderie, and helping each other. After a home cooked lunch, some stay for additional woodworking. Now don’t let the word “Codger” fool you. Although their combined ages represent woodworking knowledge that can never be replaced, their energy and work ethic is second to none. They are always ready, willing and able to parallel Woodcraft’s motto in “Helping You Make Wood Work.”
This group was formed because the needs of the one outweighed the needs of the many, but has grown where all are now helping many more. Read all about the Codgers, HERE. The lead and host codger is Bill Sands (far right) who has been featured many times in Woodcraft Magazine, including the April/May Issue #58 with an octagon shaped picnic table with a matching Lazy Susan. Bill collaborates with magazine Editor-in-Chief Jim Harrold to get the articles written.
One of the newest club members is Henry Aglio, a retired WVUP ceramics teacher and contributor to the Empty Bowls charity in Marietta. One of his pottery students was Codger member, Mike Sharps. Bill told us, “Mike told Henry all about the woodworking crew which peaked Henry’s interest to join the Codgers. Henry being a member of the Unitarian Church suggested that the codgers should turn wooden bowls to supplement the ceramic bowl supply. Henry submitted his proposal to the project administrators, and that got the lathes turning. Caroline and Cynthia, administrators to the program, visited the lodge to determine how best to integrate the wooden bowls into the project.”
The Codgers taught Henry how to turn. Left, Henry shows off his first-ever turning, a Maple bowl combined with his pottery experience in forging a steel base much like a blacksmith would hammer out a design over a hot fire. What’s great is that Henry and Mike have been both student and teacher for each other.
Now the Empty Bowls Charity Program has another option for either a ceramic soup bowl or a wooden cracker bowl to raise money for their food pantry. Call it fate because things happen for a reason. This was a perfect blend of hand craftsmanship to give a helping hand to those in need.
Look for this year’s soup bowl charity event to take place on Saturday, April 5th, 2014 from 11 a.m.-1.p.m. at the The First Congregational United Church of Christ (UCC) in Marietta, Ohio.
Ceramic and wooden bowls will be on sale and some will also be silent auctioned with all proceeds going to the food pantry area charity program.
As the program perpetually grows, more bowls will be needed every year. So turn something for charity in your area, and come join the event.
Addendum April 8th, 2014
As stated above, the soup and bowl charity event was held Saturday, April 5th. The 17th century recorded proverb, “The early bird gets the worm” would be the standard to remember for next year’s function! I arrived at 11:30, a half hour after the opening, to find that all of the 50 wooden bowls created by Codger Lodge members that were included with the purchase of the soup lunch for $10 had been the first to be picked over. All that were left were the ceramic choices. Once paid at the door, I selected a ceramic bowl, and fell into line for the homemade soups and chiles offered. There were white and red chiles’, Southwestern style soups, potato, tomato, lentil and wedding soups just to name a few! So many choices, so little time, but you could go back for as much soup, breads, crackers, desserts, and beverages as you wanted. On-hand were 30+ volunteers that were hosting, serving, cleaning, restocking, and working in the kitchen.
There was no need to use your take-home bowl of choice for the actual luncheon as the church provided all the essentials for the more than 300 people that attended the charity event which raised over $2000 for the areas food pantry program.
I caught up with fellow codgers, Bill Sands and Mikey Ellison who entertained a few of the locals with some interesting woodworking stories!
The only way to get a wooden bowl was to partake in the silent auction, in which 8 of the 50 bowls were saved. You did not have to be present to win your items, however it was advantageous to do so, as we were given a chance to be the highest bidders to help increase the food pantry cause.
I had my eye on a Cherry turned bowl by Mike Sharps (bottom right above), but was particularly interested in the Catalpa bowl (left below), turned by Jimmy Morrison. Also in the auction was the largest item to bid on, Bill Sands 11-1/2″ diameter Maple bowl (below-right)
Woodworking, beautiful bowl creations, a great lunch, helping friends in need…as Scott Phillips would say…”It doesn’t get any better than that!” Hopefully we’ll see you and your handcrafted bowl at next year’s event.
Stay woodworking my friends,