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Organizers prepare for Empty Bowls event

District Administrator Morrie Veilleux works on a bowl for the March 2 Empty Bowls fund raiser at Hillside Elementary.

Soon ceramic bowls will be scattered in the gym of Hillside Elementary as volunteers prepare for Empty Bowls on March 2.

The national campaign is aimed at drawing awareness and an end to local hunger.

In New Richmond, the event helps raise funds for Five Loaves Food Shelf, the New Richmond Happy Kids Backpack program and Heifer International.

In 2007, $8,200 was raised, Cheryl Emerson, director of Community Education, has said.

The idea behind Empty Bowls is to serve a simple meal -- usually of bread and soup or rice -- and for guests to leave with their bowls as a reminder that there are always empty bowls in the world.

The fund-raiser was started by a school teacher in Michigan who wanted to help his students raise funds to support a food drive.

Locally, the need is growing every day, said Duana Bremer, director of Grace Place, a homeless shelter in Somerset.

About 70 New Richmond families are served through the backpacks program, which sends students home for the weekend with backpacks full of food, she said. Soon, the group will partner with Head Start to reach an additional 30 families, she said.

"The more we can help those families eat on the weekends, the more it will free up their money for rent and keep them in their homes," she said.

New Richmond Happy Kids Backpack program officials hoped that the event would help alleviate the pressure on Five Loaves Food Shelf, but it hasn't, Bremer said.

"With the economy the way it is, people are going to the food pantries and using the backpacks because they don't know what else to do," she said.

Five Loaves Food Shelf is open Monday through Thursday evening by appointment. The organization serves roughly 12 meals each night, Bremer said.

"They are full and booked to the maximum every night," she said. "People will call Monday for an appointment and we won't be able to get them in until next week."

New Richmond's Empty Bowls event is scheduled for March 2 at Hillside Elementary from 5 to 7 p.m.

Organizers have been receiving numerous donations and money from penny drives and drives at local schools, Emerson said.

Larry Gee, from WITC, will emcee that evening and volunteers are working hard to secure food and bread donations for the night, Emerson said.

Bowls will be available to the public for $10 each. A meal of soup and bread is an additional $5.

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

T-shirts are available at all the schools, the district office and Community Education for $10 and will also be sold the night of the event.

Silent auction items will be donated from local artists and businesses. Bowls created by district staff, including one by district administrator Morrie Veilleux, will be auctioned.

High school ceramics, the art club and all district fifth-graders are making bowls. The organization hopes to have between 400 and 500 bowls.

Fifth-graders wrapped up their bowl making last week, said Mike Pike, Hillside art teacher. Veilleux finished his bowl on Tuesday.

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

"We hope to see everyone out there on Monday night to help raise awareness and funds to combat hunger in the community," Emerson said.

Anyone interested in volunteering or wanting more information can call Emerson at 715-243-7421.

"The New Richmond community is very generous and they do step forward if they know there's a need," Bremer said. "We just want people to know that there is a need. People don't realize it because it's not something they see every day, but it's there."

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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