Handmade ceramic bowls entice donors to stand in charity soup line

Helen Watkinson of Grand Junction, left, decides she is happy with her bowl selection as her son, Ted, agrees Saturday during the annual Empty Bowls benefit at Grand Valley Catholic Outreach, 245 S. First St. Hundreds attended the fundraiser, which offers a handmade bowl, soup and dessert for $25. An estimated 1,000 people attended this year. The event typically raises about $30,000.

Lisa Hammond of Eagle had heard of the Empty Bowls fund-raiser at Grand Valley Catholic Outreach. So when the 18th annual event rolled around Saturday, she met up with her friends from Palisade to attend.

“I think that the bowls is the hook,” Hammond said, scanning tables laid out with hundreds of unique handmade, glazed ceramic bowls. “The fact that you can take a piece of it home with you is a visual as well as tangible reminder that there’s a lot of people in need.”

Up to an estimated 1,000 people lined up outside during brisk winds to donate to the charity’s biggest yearly fundraiser.

“It’s a community event,” volunteer George Briner said collecting cash and handing out tickets. “People are smiling and chatting. We have people come in and donate more than the ticket price. That lady in front of you donated $500.”

Sure enough, Catholic Outreach stretches all the funds it receives. Empty Bowls typically raises about $30,000.

The charity runs a soup kitchen open daily to anyone in the public down on their luck, a service that about 275 people a day depend on for a hot meal.

The organization also offers housing and utility assistance; runs a thrift store where folks can pick out clean clothes; a day center for people to look for work, get a cup of coffee, do laundry and receive some health care assistance; a book donation program for children; and two apartment complexes for low-income veterans and others at St. Benedict’s Place and St. Martin’s Place.

Saturday’s event was a scrumptious affair with soups, breads, desserts and drinks donated from about 49 restaurants in the Grand Valley.

Members of the Evergreen String Quartet delighted diners with their playing and the band Free While Supplies Last played outside.

Finding the perfect bowl was probably the most difficult task as visitors chose one, only to find another they adored more farther down the line.

“You can chose one, then exchange it if you find one you like better,” a volunteer offered.

Bowls were provided by about 56 donors, who included artists from local schools and other professional and amateur potters.


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