Empty Bowls helps food pantries

For 14 years the Empty Bowls soup luncheon has benefited area food pantries in their endeavors to feed the hungry.

This weekend the tradition continues from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at the First Congregational Church, 318 Front St. Proceeds will go primarily to the Marietta Community Food Pantry, but other food pantries across the county and in Parkersburg will also benefit.

Event coordinator Caroline Putnam said Empty Bowls was started by Michigan art teacher John Harton in 1990.

“His students wanted to do something to help with people being hungry,” she said, adding that the event has spread to states across the country. “What one person’s idea can do, it’s amazing.”

The event started at the First Unitarian Universalist Church but because of growth was moved to St. Luke’s Episcopal Church.

“We outgrew the Episcopal church, so now we’re permanently at the First Congregational Church,” Putnam said. “That’s a good thing to have happen.”

Both the Unitarian Church and St. Luke’s are co-sponsors of the event, in conjunction with area potters.

Melissa Rohrer, 56, owner of Acorn Pottery, is one of the potters helping with the event.

“I like doing it to help out the food pantries,” she said. “I enjoy making bowls for the event.”

Rohrer said she has been involved with the event since the beginning and she usually makes at least 20 bowls each year, and a few are pretty unique.

“I’ve got a couple bowls that have variegation, with two glazes combined,” she said. “The one’s a blue and black, the other’s a white and brown. I’ve also got a soft gray-green bowl with some decorations on it. I have one bowl with a bird design.”

Some area students have also been able to get in on the bowl-making fun.

Julie Brewer, Harmar Elementary School art teacher, said students have been involved with making bowls for many years.

“This is our eighth or ninth year,” she said, adding that retired art teacher Carol Garoza is the one who got the children initially involved.

Brewer said after studying a Depression era artist, a few questions arose.

“How do we help those who don’t have as much?” she asked. “How do we all as a community make it better? We get to help each other.”

Brewer said this year’s designs would be a little different.

“We’ll have a spiral coil design this year, so we’ll see what people think,” she said, adding the bowls would be “a variety of stormy colors” of blues and greens.

A new addition to this year’s ceramic bowls are wooden ones, said Putnam.

“(The Codger Lodge is) making wooden bowls this year,” she said. “They’re calling them cracker bowls to go with the soup bowls.”

The Codger Lodge is a group from Lubeck, W.Va. that specializes in making wooden bowls.

About 16 area businesses are involved in making the soup.

Putnam said $10 will buy a bowl and lunch, which includes soup, bread and homemade cookies. If someone doesn’t want a bowl, the lunch can be purchased for $5. About $3,000 is usually made during the event each year.

In addition to lunch, a silent auction will also be held, where several bowls from area potters will be showcased.

Putnam said the bowls make wonderful gifts and can provide some food for thought.

“Some people have a whole collection (of bowls) and serve soup at dinner parties,” she said. “Some people keep change in it for something they believe is important. What do you do with an empty bowl? You can fill it with many things.”