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November 25, 2008 3:23 am

Empty Bowl event helps fill food pantry shelves

Written by Tribune Staff

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Terra Fernau fills Kristen Edwards' and Ric Heasler's bowls with steaming potato bacon soup at the Empty Bowls charity event Tuesday at Plaza Diane. Attendees cheerfully waited in a line that wound all the way to the corner of Bent and Second streets. Tribune photo by Kara Bacon

Inside Plaza Diane, hundreds of handmade ceramic bowls of various sizes and colors lined a long table. Outside, hundreds of people of various ages and social backgrounds waited to purchase a bowl for a good cause.

During the Empty Bowl fundraiser Tuesday night, 220 bowls were purchased, raising more than $2,500 for Powell Valley Loaves and Fishes.

The $10 bowls were filled with warm soup, and people kept their purchased bowls as a reminder of hunger.
Northwest College ceramics instructor Elaine DeBuhr organized the event and was amazed at the community's turnout.

“I'm just astounded by it,” she said. “The bowls sold out in less than an hour ... only an hour, but it was such an incredible hour.”

She called the support inspiring and heartwarming, and said it shows how Powell comes together to support a cause.

“It speaks volumes to what Powell is, what this community is,” DeBuhr said. “It says a lot about our town that people show up to support this cause.”

DeBuhr said she organized the fundraiser to raise money for the pantry and awareness for hunger, but also to teach her students that their art can make a difference.

“It's important for me that my students saw that they can have an impact on their community,” she said. “They were in awe at the turnout. It shows that every individual can have an impact.”

While various students contributed to the project, DeBuhr said a core group of six students spent hours getting the bowls ready for the event.

“It was hard at times and a little bit stressful,” said Alethea Durney, a NWC art student. “Knowing what we were doing it for made it not so much of a chore.”

Just like their professor, students didn't expect such an great turnout.

“It was above and beyond what we were expecting,” Durney said.

“We were joking around and said, ‘Well, it won't be like 200 people rushing at us ... and it was,'” said Calli Nissen, a NWC student.

Standing among dozens of people crowded outside Plaza Diane, Loaves and Fishes board member Julie Fulton was delighted.

“I think this is so wonderful,” she said. “It's so kind of Elaine (DeBuhr) and her students.”

DeBuhr said ceramic student fees covered the cost for the supplies to construct the bowls, and the Northwest College Art Club also supported it financially. She added that the fundraiser also cost less because Aramark was generous in its support and provided soup at a minimal cost.

DeBuhr said she was thankful the event took place downtown at Plaza Diane, because it emphasized that this was a community event — not a college event.

“It drew a wide range of people,” she said. “I love that part of it.”

DeBuhr expects the Empty Bowl fundraiser will occur again in Powell, and joked that she and ceramic students will start preparing now to ensure there are enough.

People who attended Tuesday night's event will have their bowls as a tangible reminder of hunger in the community.

“They will see that bowl, and it will bring up the memory,” DeBuhr said. “They can remember the event, remember what it was for, remember Loaves and Fishes and remember the community spirit.”