WAYNESBURG – Soup was steaming in the serving trays and fresh baked bread sat in baskets on every table as people began arriving at noon Sunday for the first Empty Bowls Greene County luncheon.
It was as pretty as a bridal reception in building 9 at the county fairgrounds, with baskets of flowers on every table and an art gallery display of donated works waiting for the Chinese auction bids to begin. But the biggest visual treats were the handmade ceramic bowls, more than 150 of them, glistening with rich glazes, as those who came to dine came around to choose one to take home – a reminder of all the empty bowls in the world.
Empty Bowls began in 1990 when Michigan art teacher John Hartom and his high school students made ceramic bowls for a fundraising meal of soup and bread and guests could keep their bowls. Now this spicy mix of artists, cooks and the community has made it to Greene County and the results couldn’t be tastier.
The soups cooked up by culinary students at Greene County Career and Technology Center were delicious, as was the Tuscan kale soup that chef Bill Aupperle of the Lardin House was inspired to bring and serve after reading about Empty Bowls in the paper.
“It’s great to be at an event where ceramics is the star,” Waynesburg University ceramics instructor Andrew Heisey said, beaming.
Students in his advanced ceramics class and students who just had fun making bowls for a day in January, contributed bowls of all shapes and sizes to the cause. Ceramic artists Jim and Linda Winegar pitched in and donated 40 of their pieces and organized the Chinese auction of work donated from artists on display at Artbeat Gallery, Waynesburg.
In one part of the hall, two wheels were set up and Heisey and students Cassie Dowling and Ken Cline got to work turning clay into beautifully rounded objects of art while people, especially children, watched in wonder.
Nervous? Just a little, Dowling admitted as she carefully lifted a wet clay pot from the wheel and sat it on the table with a line of other finished pieces. “It’s so nice to see what we’ve learned in class applied like this,”
“I’m so thankful for everyone who made this community event such a success. Everyone who helped out was from the local Greene County community, so we wanted every piece of the local community to be involved,” event organizer Steven Snow said.
Last year, Snow, a criminal justice major at Waynesburg University, was a junior, looking for a Bonner project. He and his fellow teammates chose Empty Bowls and partnered with the Community Foundation of Greene County to do it as a fundraiser for the Weekend Food Program that provides kid-friendly food for students who might not be able to get enough food outside of school. The program is available in all county school districts, thanks to donations, cooperation between institutions and organizations and the army of volunteers who donate time to making it happen.
“Funds are divided among our schools for the weekend food program,” Community Foundation foundation Director Bettie Stammerjohn said. “I’m so pleased at how it all worked out. Our first Empty Bowls was a complete success. Many people who donated didn’t attend the event but they wanted to support the Weekend Food Program. We don’t have all the figures in and the donations are still coming in.”
The Greene County Security Partnership is holding its annual Hunger Summit from 9:30 a.m.to 1 p.m. Tuesday at the Greene County Readiness Center, 500 EverGreene Drive, Waynesburg.
The public is invited attend, meet some of the people who made Empty Bowls such a success and learn more about what is being done to assist those who are struggling with food insecurity and learn about the programs that are being offered. Lunch is included.
If interested in attending, call Community Foundation of Greene County at 724-627-2010.