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Empty Bowls beats the weather, meets $10,000 fundraising goal

More than 400 bowls were on display during the sixth annual New Richmond Empty Bowls event on Thursday, April 18. The bowls were created by district fifth-graders, Art Club students and various community members.

Despite a pile of sleet and snow, hundreds flocked to the New Richmond Community Commons on Thursday, April 18, to participate in the sixth annual Empty Bowls event.

The event, which featured more than 400 locally-created ceramic bowls and glass necklaces, was deemed a huge success, despite the weather, said Cheryl Emerson, co-chairwoman of the event.

"At the beginning of the night I said I would be thankful if 20 people showed up," Emerson joked. "As people kept filtering in, I would say at least 400 people attended. That's down from previous years, but considering the weather, I'm very happy with that."

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

Numbers from the event have not been calculated yet; however, Emerson said she's confident that the goal of $10,000 was met.

"We still have money coming in, so it'll be a while before we know the total, but at first blush it appears we've met our goal," she said.

The weather may have worked in the event's favor, Emerson said.

"So many other events were canceled and people might have thought the roads weren't that bad and, since they had nothing else to do, they came to see the bowls," she said. "And then once people got here, it seems like they hung out longer than previous years. Maybe it's because they didn't want to go back out in the snow."

The more than 45 gallons of soup (including corn beef and cabbage, potato, tomato bisque and chicken and rice), several loaves of bread and breadsticks were donated by local businesses and the high school FCE students.

Emerson said only five or six gallons of soup was left over at the end of the night.

"That's less than in previous years, so people must have been hanging out and really enjoying the soup," she said. "We did really well in that department."

All leftover food was donated to Grace Place, a transitional housing shelter in Somerset.

Bowl 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 bowls created by the district's fifth-graders, fourth grade students at Hillside Elementary, along with the girls' varsity soccer team, created glass pendants that were sold at the event as necklaces.

"I think we sold 120 necklaces," she said. "Those were really popular and people were buying them as Mother's Day gifts and for themselves."

For those who needed a break from shopping, hunger bingo was offered, complete with hunger facts.

Entertainment was provided by the Ready, Set, Go Preschool singer, Dance Explosion, Community Ed drama students and middle school ensemble singers.

An elementary student-run bake sale featured many homemade goods, including several varieties of cookies and brownies. It raised about $500 ($350 the night of the event and $120 at a separate sale before the event), Emerson said.

The bake sale began last year when a couple of the district's fourth-graders wanted a way to help fundraise.

A silent auction featuring donations from local businesses and professional artists was available for bidding. The items available included Minnesota Twins tickets, an autographed Packers helmet, hanging flower baskets and lunch with each of the district's principals.

"I think a lot of people got some good deals," Emerson said.

Jared Binkley, a senior at New Richmond High School, organized a food drive for the event as his Eagle Scout project. Students at the high school were encouraged to bring non-perishable items and toiletries for the drive. Food was also collected at the event.

As another way to raise money, New Richmond High School auctioned off three parking spaces at the school that would allow students to park in a reserved, front-row space for two weeks. The first spot sold for $75.

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; in 2010, more than $11,000; about $11,000 was collected in 2011; and about $15,000 was raised in 2012.