Empty Bowls fundraiser draws community support

Volunteer Andrew Kapczynski dishes out chili at the Empty Bowls fundraiser Dec. 2.

Volunteer Andrew Kapczynski dishes out chili at the Empty Bowls fundraiser Dec. 2.
Photo by Scott Neuffer.

The Empty Bowls fundraiser in the Carson Mall was a celebration of art but also a chance to help those in need in the Carson City community.

“It’s really important we make sure we take care of the community,” said Chelsea Lavender, promotions director at the mall.

Going into its eighth year, the event was estimated to draw upward of 1,200 attendees Friday. Empty Bowls was postponed during the COVID-19 pandemic. In past years, the event has raised more than $10,000 for Friends In Service Helping, a nonprofit social services organization that assists low-income and unsheltered people in the community, especially those affected by issues of hunger.

Gillian Murdock, food bank and event manager for FISH, estimated the event would raise more than $12,000 this year.

“All money goes to the FISH food bank and the Family Dining Room,” she said.

For $15, donors received a hot meal and a handmade bowl to take home.

“It’s one of our top fundraisers of the year,” said Murdock. “It really helps us in the coming months. It raises awareness of hunger and homelessness in the community.”

Murdock said that homelessness and hunger issues don’t match stereotypes in popular media.

“Especially when weather hits, times get tough,” she said. “It could be someone couch surfing or living out of their car. There’s a great need people don’t see.”

Murdock called it “incredible” that the bowls offered during the fundraiser were made by members of the community.

“It’s not one person who made them, but hundreds,” she said.

The bowls brought out the “artistic flair” of those who contributed, Murdock added.

That flair wasn’t lost on patron Lorie Schulenberg, who was browsing the hundreds of bowls displayed near the north entrance of the mall.

“It’s so hard to choose,” she said. “They’re so beautiful.”

Jo Moore, co-owner of Ogres-Holm Pottery, and Robin Clark, Empty Bowls Committee member, were greeting people in the pottery studio that was converted into a makeshift kitchen to serve patrons. They explained some of the bowls were donated, but many were made in the studio by eager volunteers.

“Just having the community involved in making the bowls makes it that much more special,” said Clark.

Community members donated artistic talents in other ways. The Carson High band played in the middle of the mall, and local restaurants provided the food for the dinner. Gold Dust West, for example, brought chicken noodle soup. Bella Vita Bistro had a tomato bisque. Great Basin Brewing brought chili.

Carson resident Andre Kapczynski volunteered to serve the chili. He said he works for Click Bond, a local company that had put out a volunteer call for the event.

Helping Kapczynski was his six-year-old daughter, Morgan.

“It’s nice and fun,” Morgan said of serving those in line.

According to the Clay Connection, a nonprofit pottery group, Empty Bowls began more than 30 years ago as an art project in a Michigan high school. Paired with a dinner fundraiser was the idea of creating empty bowls to symbolize world hunger. The movement gained momentum and became a way for communities to support local foods banks.


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