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Empty Bowls exceeds goal

More than 600 bowls were on display at the New Richmond Community Commons on Thursday, April 26, during the fifth annual New Richmond Empty Bowls event. The bowl sales were used to help fight local hunger. Pictured above, some event-goers check out the hand-crafted creations. For video coverage of the event, visit / 3
Several types of soup, including the popular beer cheese soup, were available for event-goers at the New Richmond Empty Bowls event. All soup and was donated by local businesses and individuals.3 / 3

Organizers are all smiles after more than 600 people turned out for the fifth annual New Richmond Empty Bowls on Thursday, April 26.

"Not everyone was registered, but based on who was registered, my best guesstimate is there were a couple hundred more than the 600," said Cheryl Emerson, co-chairwoman of the event.

Empty Bowls is a national campaign to end hunger in local communities. The idea behind the campaign is to sell handcrafted bowls and to serve a simple meal -- usually of bread and soup or rice. After attending, guests leave with their bowls as a reminder that there are always empty bowls in the world.

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

At Thursday's event, more than 600 ceramic bowls, made by district fifth-graders, high school ceramics and art club students and various community members, were available for sale for $10 and included a meal. Additional meals could be purchased for $3.

Half the clay used for the event was donated by Continental Clay Co., a Minneapolis-based company. The glaze was donated by Mark Lusardi, a local potter.

The numbers from the event have not been totaled yet, but Emerson said she's confident that Thursday's event exceeded the committee's $10,000 goal and likely beat last year's total of $10,800.

"At first blush, we definitely went over our total from last year," Emerson said. "Our silent auction brought in close to double what it brought in at last year's event."

This year's event was held at the New Richmond Community Commons, a change from the past three years, when the event was held at Hillside Elementary. Emerson said the reason to change locations was simple - the Community Commons houses the food shelf, one of the fundraiser's benefactors, and the Community Commons also allowed organizers to set up a few days earlier.

"People were really interested to come see what we're doing here," Emerson said of the public's reaction to the Community Commons. "People feel comfortable here - they always have."

Tours of the food shelf and the Community Commons' new art studio were given throughout the event and Emerson said people were amazed at how much some of the former school's spaces had been transformed in such a short time.

Buyers had to arrive early to get first pick of the bowls. A good number of bowls were sold within the first half hour of the event.

In addition to the bowls, a silent auction featuring donations from local businesses and professional artists, including Lusardi, were available for bidding. The items available included handmade mittens, a new iPod, teeth whitening services and various gift baskets.

The more than 45 gallons of soup (ranging from broccoli and cheese and BBQ chicken and rice to corn chowder and beer cheese), 30 loaves of bread and more than 100 breadsticks were donated by local businesses and the high school FCE students. All leftover food was donated to Grace Place, a transitional housing shelter in Somerset.

"People were really raving about the soup options this year," Emerson said.

New to the event was a bake sale, hosted by some of New Richmond School District's fourth-graders.

"That went over really well and was really popular," Emerson said.

The idea for the bake sale, led by Josh Nysse, Brecia Oropeza Villegas and Maria Giannini, began to germinate several weeks ago when the students decided to sell candy and baked goods during lunch one day. They sold out quickly and raised about $45 for the Empty Bowls event. It was so successful that they decided to have another bake sale at the event. Each item was sold in a hand crafted origami bowl.

All proceeds from the event were used to help end hunger locally and benefitted Five Loaves Food and Clothing Center, where each dollar raised can buy about $7 worth of food, and the New Richmond Happy Kids Backpack program, a program that ensures local families will have food available to them every weekend during the school year.

The New Richmond event started in fall 2007 before being switched to the spring in 2009. Each year the event gains in popularity, Emerson said. The first year about $8,200 was raised; in 2009, $10,750; more than $11,100 was collected in 2010; and more than $10,800 was collected in 2011.

A grand total of $40,700 has been donated so far, the Empty Bowls committee said. Because $7 of food can be purchased with every $1 donated, that means the local Empty Bowls event has helped to buy more than $284,900 of food for local families.