The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

November 20, 2012

Empty Bowls organizers surpass $10,000 goal

By Scott Meeker

— Who says there’s no truth in advertising?

During Joplin’s first Empty Bowls fundraiser — held Thursday at Phoenix Fired Art, 1603 S. Main St. — organizers ran out of soup midway through the evening, and some visitors found themselves faced with just that.

“We ran out at 7 p.m., so people coming after that got the true empty bowl experience,” said Heather Grills, owner of the studio and gallery. “They came and got a bowl and a piece of bread, but no one said, ‘I’m not coming, then.’”

The event was designed to raise money for local residents in need. Those attending paid $15 for a hand-crafted ceramic bowl, which was filled with soup donated by a variety of restaurants. Funds raised were earmarked for the Salvation Army, Watered Gardens and Crosslines. The goal was to raise $10,000.

“We don’t have our final number, because we have some out-of-state checks coming in, but we’re thinking we raised over $12,000,” Grills said.

She estimated that at least 500 people attended the fundraiser.

Empty Bowls is a program that has spread internationally after it was launched in 1990 by a high-school teacher in Michigan. Grills said that she knew it was something she wanted to bring to Joplin when she opened her studio and gallery in February.

“When I wrote out a business plan, part of my vision was to serve the community as well as be a creative hub,” she said. “Part of Empty Bowls is educating people on how nice hand-made ceramics are.”

The bowls were created and donated to the project by local artists. She said that they are microwavable and dishwasher safe.

When the final tally is reached, the funds raised will be distributed equally among the three charities.

“We have had such a positive response from the community,” said Grills. “We’re looking forward to it next year. We’ve already had a couple of potters say they want to make more bowls for it.”

Grills said that plans have already been made to hold the event on the third Thursday  of November of 2013.

The studio will continue to hold events on the third Thursday of every month, even during the off-season for the downtown Joplin festivities.

“People are used to going out for Third Thursday,” said Grills. “We have an indoor venue, so we’ll continue it.”

She said that the studio will host an open house on Thursday, Dec. 20.