By Wally Kennedy
JOPLIN, Mo. —
There are blue ones, red ones and green ones, and they all have something in common. They’re empty.
But from 5 to 8:30 p.m. today, more than 500 bowls at Phoenix Fired Art, 1603 S. Main St., will be filled with a variety of warm and tasty soups donated by Joplin restaurants in a project to help feed people in need.
The basic premise is simple: For a minimum donation of $15 per bowl, the donor receives a hand-crafted ceramic bowl with soup and bread. The donor gets to keep the bowl.
“They get a bowl to remind them that someone somewhere has an empty bowl,” said Heather Grills, owner of Phoenix Fired Art. “This is very local event because it addresses local hunger.”
All proceeds from the event, known internationally as Empty Bowls, will benefit Crosslines, the Salvation Army and Watered Gardens. The goal is to raise $10,000.
“The idea is to feed the hungry people in your neighborhood,” Grills said.
Lt. James Curry, with the Salvation Army, plans to be there tonight to get his bowl of soup.
“Empty Bowls is a tremendous project,” Curry said. “They did it in our last community, Fond du Lac, Wis., and raised about $8,000 to $10,000. It’s wonderful when the restaurants come together to provide the soup. You buy the bowl you want, get fed and provide food for people who really need it.”
What will the money raised mean to the Salvation Army in Joplin?
“We are feeding 300 people a day,” Curry said. “A $10 donation to us can, in reality, feed 21 people. We know how to maximize the donation dollars given to us.”
Empty Bowls was started in 1990 by John Hartom, a high school art teacher, when he joined a drive to raise charitable funds in his community of Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
His idea was to organize a charitable event to give artists in his community and art students a way to make a personal difference. Hartom’s students made ceramic bowls in their high school art classes. The bowls were used as individual serving pieces for a fundraising meal of soup and bread in which the guests kept the empty bowl.
“They thought it would be a one-time thing,” Grills said. “It’s now all over the world and has raised millions of dollars to fight hunger.”
The participating restaurants are Instant Karma, Kinnaree, Mythos, Granny Shaffer’s, Festival Mexican and Orient Express. Among the soups will be stew, chicken noodle, egg drop, rice and prime rib chili. The bread will be provided by Mohaska Farmhouse and Panera Bread.
Donors will select the bowl they want to keep from tables that are covered with a wide variety of bowl styles, colors and textures. More than 35 ceramic artists and students, including those associated with Midwest Clay Artists and Springfield Pottery, have donated the bowls. Volunteers will ladle 1 1/2 cups of soup into each bowl.
“We want to educate people about the value of ceramics and to support our local artists,” Grills said. “This is artwork that is meant to be handled. If you would see a ‘Made in China’ stamped on one of these bowls, I can assure you it would be facetious.”
Posters promoting the project were donated by Dixie Printing. Southwest Missouri Bank contributed $400 to purchase clay to make the bowls, which are dishwasher and microwave safe.
Grills said she plans for Empty Bowls to be an event that is held annually in the week before Thanksgiving. She said she hopes the empty bowls that donors receive tonight will be featured on Thanksgiving tables across the region.
“They would be perfect for cranberry sauce,” she said. “But the most important thing is that they will help you remember that there are too many people in the world that don’t have enough to eat, and that their bowl is always empty.”