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County’s first Empty Bowls fundraiser a success

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

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The University of Maine at Presque's Ceramics II class enjoyed a sellout event and raised nearly $1,800 when they held the area's very first Empty Bowls fundraiser. As part of this Empty Bowls event, participants had the opportunity to purchase unique homemade bowls and enjoy cups of warm soup, all to benefit Martha and Mary's Soup Kitchen. The Empty Bowls fundraiser was held at the William V. Haskell Community Center (Presque Isle Recreation Center) on Friday, Dec. 6 from 6-8 p.m. in conjunction with the Presque Isle First Friday Art Walk.

"I was excited to be part of this and am grateful for the generous support we received from students, colleagues and local businesses," Hyrum Benson, event organizer and UMPI Assistant Professor of Fine Art, said. "I think it is wonderful that my students recognized the need in the County and were willing to help by donating some of their amazing handmade bowls."

As part of Empty Bowls, approximately 100 hand-crafted bowls were made and donated by current and past students from Hyrum Benson's Ceramics classes, as well as artists in the County such as Heather Bessey, Russell Mount, Hyrum Benson and others. Also crafting their own unique and creative bowls to donate were Presque Isle High School students under the direction of Ellyn Whitten Smith.

With each $10 bowl purchased, local businesses provided participants with a cup of soup. Businesses donating soup included Aramark, Café Sorpreso, Governor's, The Whole Potato, Gretchen Violette, and Star City Coffee.

Organizers weren't sure what to expect for a turnout, but ended up selling every single bowl that was made for the event by about 6:10 p.m. More funds were raised by selling cups of soup for $5 donations. And all participants were able to enjoy live music featured during the event.

Empty Bowls is an international grassroots effort to fight hunger and was originally created by The Imagine Render Group, according to the organization's website. The basic premise is simple: Potters and other craftspeople, educators and others work with the community to create handcrafted bowls. Guests are invited to a simple meal of soup. In exchange for a cash donation, guests are asked to keep a bowl as a reminder of all the empty bowls in the world. The money raised is donated to an organization working to end hunger and food insecurity.

Benson had donated to Empty Bowls events in the past when he lived in other parts of the country, but when he arrived in northern Maine, he saw a real need here and a chance to make a positive difference through a local Empty Bowls event. He hopes that the local event showed people that art can have a positive impact on a local scale.

All proceeds from this event benefit Martha and Mary's Soup Kitchen, located on 21 Parsons Rd. in Presque Isle. The soup kitchen is usually open Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 2-5 p.m. While open, they serve about 80 meals per day.