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Empty Bowls event set to battle local hunger

Freshman Bailey Matthys throws a bowl on the pottery wheel Wednesday. Matthys and the art club worked to create bowls for Empty Bowls, an event aimed at fighting hunger. The high school hopes to reach its goal of creating 150 hand-formed and wheel-thrown bowls by the March 2 event. Photo by Jackie Grumish

Hundreds of ceramic bowls are being built, glazed and fired at New Richmond schools in preparation of March's Empty Bowls event at Hillside Elementary.

Students started building the bowls last week, said Bridget Haugen, high school art teacher. The high school plans to make about 150 bowls.

Empty Bowls is a national campaign, started by a school teacher in Michigan who wanted to help his students raise funds to support a food drive.

New Richmond's event started in 2007 and raised $8,200 for Five Loaves Food Shelf, the New Richmond Happy Kids Backpack program and Heifer International, said Cheryl Emerson, director of community education.

2009's event will be held March 2 at Hillside Elementary from 5 to 7 p.m.

The idea is the same but a few things have changed, Emerson said.

Unlike the 2007 event, a simple meal of soup and bread will be served. In 2007, rice and water was offered.

"We want to make it more of a family event," Emerson said. "Last year families were leaving and stopping at McDonald's or Subway on their way home."

In addition to bowls, T-shirts, keychains and necklaces will also be sold to help raise money.

Silent auction items will be donated from local artists and businesses. Bowls created by school staff will also be auctioned. In 2007, a pottery piece by Steve Wojan, Paperjack Elementary principal, was auctioned.

New Richmond Empty Bowls was inspired by the Osceola Empty Bowls event, which has been going on for years, Emerson said.

"There's a need in our community," she said. "We have hungry people here. Each year the schools are seeing an increase in applications for free lunches."

St. Croix County is known as a fairly wealthy community, Emerson said. However, there is a need.

For example, in 2007 while Mike Pike, elementary school art teacher, explained the event and the programs it benefits to his students, one student stood and announced to the class that she was one of the students who got assistance from the Backpack program. Her friends stared at her in disbelief, but the announcement motivated her classmates to help.

The schools hope to create between 400 and 500 bowls, Emerson said. Along with the high school ceramics class and art club, each fifth-grader will be making bowls for the fund-raiser, Emerson said.

All the clay -- roughly 800 to 1,000 pounds -- is donated by Continental Clay Co., a Minneapolis-based company.

Volunteers are still needed for the March event, Emerson said.

Anyone interested in volunteering can call Emerson at 715-243-7421.

Jackie Grumish
Jackie Grumish has been a reporter with the New Richmond News since 2008. She holds degrees in journalism and fine art from Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Ill. Before coming to New Richmond, Jackie worked as the city government reporter at a daily newspaper in Aberdeen, S.D. 
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