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Empty Bowls raises $10,750 to combat hunger

More than 45 gallons of soup were donated to New Richmond Empty Bowls, a fund-raiser aimed at ending local hunger. The event raised more than $10,500 for Five Loaves Food Shelf and New Richmond Happy Kids Backpack program. Photo by Jackie Grumish2 / 2

The numbers are in. New Richmond Empty Bowls raised more than $10,750 for Five Loaves Food Shelf and the New Richmond Backpack Program.

That's $2,550 more than last year's $8,200.

"When I saw the early numbers I was very surprised," said Cheryl Emerson, director of Community Ed and co-chair of Empty Bowls. "We're very happy with the results and money is still coming in."

On Tuesday after the event, a few large donations -- including one from Wal-mart -- were received to push the fund-raiser over the $10,000 mark, she said.

"With the economy being the way it is, I didn't think we should even set a goal," said Mike Pike, Hillside Elementary art teacher.

The handmade, ceramic bowls were created by New Richmond students and staff and sold for $10 to help raise money to end hunger locally.

The Empty Bowls national campaign was started by an art teacher in Michigan who wanted to help his students raise funds to support a food drive.

A simple meal -- usually of bread and soup or rice -- is served and guests leave with their bowls as a reminder that there are always empty bowls in the world.

Last year the group served rice and water. This year 45 gallons of soup and bread were donated by local restaurants and businesses to help feed the more than 300 people who attended the event. The FCE class at the high school also made bread; any leftovers went to Grace Place.

Food donors included Lisa Benson, The Bean Bag Coffee House; Meghan Bacon, Ava's Restaurant; JV Zontelli, Bellarietta Bistro; Jackie Paar, Kozy Korner; Steve Montpetit, Pete's Pizza; Randy and Debbie Calleja, R&D Catering and Ready Randy's; Linda Soifakis, Champs; Stacy Wright, Lowry Hotel and Cafe; Subway Restaurant; Mary Caudy, Douville Bakery; and Indianhead Foodservice Distributor.

The donations and community effort made the event a success, said Emerson.

Everything from the 600 pounds of clay from Continental Clay Co. used to make the bowls to the silent auction items -- including a oil change, lunch with district staff and handmade jewelry -- were donated.

Planning and execution of the Empty Bowls event was done entirely by volunteers. Empty Bowls' success would not have been possible without the volunteers and sponsors, Emerson said.

All proceeds went to Five Loaves Food Shelf and the New Richmond Backpack program, which is modeled after the Salvation Army's Happy Kids BackPack Program.

"The money will go to New Richmond's Backpack Program to benefit New Richmond kids," Emerson said. "And the families benefitting from the food shelf must live in the school district so all the money raised is going straight back into our community."

In New Richmond, the percentage of children who qualify for the free/reduced lunch program has steadily increased in the last 10 years from 12 percent in 1995 to 23 percent in 2008, according to statistics from the school district.

In St. Croix County, 10.5 percent of the children are on food share.

For more information on the New Richmond Backpack Program, call Duana or Lori at 715-247-2944. Donations to Five Loaves Food Shelf are accepted at ReMax Realty, 405 S. Dakota St., New Richmond during regular business hours.

Event sponsors included: AnchorBank, New Richmond Community Education, Bremer Bank, First National Community Bank, St. Croix County Youth Nutrition and Activity Coalition, New Richmond School District, YOUth and Families Initiative, New Richmond News, Westfields Hospital, WITC and Continental Clay Co.

New Richmond's newest school, Hillside Elementary, provided extra space for the event with bowl display in the gym, the silent auction in the main hallway and the soup and bread served in the cafeteria.

Last year, Empty Bowls was held at New Richmond Middle School. While the event was a success, Hillside allowed the group to spread its wings and expand the the fund-raiser to different parts of the building.

Student-run penny drives at Hillside and Paperjack raised more than $1,400.

T-shirt sales throughout the district along with multiple food drives also helped promote hunger awareness.

The more than $10,750 raised will be split evenly between Five Loaves Food Shelf and the New Richmond Backpacks Program, Emerson said. Each dollar donated to the food shelf can buy $7 worth of food to be distributed to through the food shelf.

"This money will make a huge difference in many families' lives," Emerson said.

On Monday, only 23 of the 265 bowls remained. Those bowls, along with T-shirts, are still available for purchase in the art room at Hillside Elementary. Anyone interested should contact Pike at Hillside Elementary.

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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