AVON LAKE — Working to educate residents on food insecurity — one spoonful of soup at a time — the seventh Empty Bowls by the Lake fundraiser aimed to raise $20,000 for area food pantries.
The event, part of a national movement started by an art teacher in Michigan in 1990, invited community members Saturday to American Legion Post 211 in Avon Lake to choose a handmade bowl and eat soup buffet from 25 restaurants along Lake Erie between Ohio City and Put-In-Bay for $20.
Organizer Laura Kirchner, of Avon Lake, started the local event after seeing one in Naples, Florida. After seven years, her favorite part is still seeing the donated bowls. The roughly 600 hand-crafted bowls were made by students at Lorain County Community College, Westlake High School, Avon Lake High School, Avon Lake Middle School, Lake Ridge Academy, North Ridgeville High School, Avon High School, Bay High School and North Olmsted High School as well as by several area artists.
“Yeah, I want to make a lot of money for the food bank but more important to me is all these people — these 1,000 people just had an opportunity to do something really good and now are more aware of the hunger around them, and it will keep spreading.”
Last year’s event raised $13,000, with proceeds benefiting Second Harvest Food Bank of North Central Ohio, Lorain County Community College’s food pantry and Avon/Avon Lake’s Community Resource Services. This year, Kirchner hoped to raise $7,000 more for the organizations through the event’s silent auction, donations, raffle and entry fee.
“I know that’s like way up there, not realistic, but it’s my goal,” she said. She said a final count may be available today.
The McKimmie family, of South Lorain, was one of many local residents who came out to support the event. Leigh, husband Eric and son Alex attended their third Empty Bowls fundraiser, which has become a family tradition, Leigh McKimmie said.
“It’s my husband’s high school buddy that started this, so we came out to see everybody and to support the food bank,” she said. “Here in Lorain County we do know that there’s quite a few people that need this, so it’s a great cause.”
The family uses the fundraiser to find Christmas gifts for friends, family and Alex’s teachers. This year, they picked out several bowls, including one with a cat on the bottom, and “purrr-fect” glazed along the side.
“Our niece has five cats, so we got a cat bowl,” Leigh McKimmie said.
Staffing bubbling pots of soup — from vegan chili to chowders and classic chicken noodle — were volunteers, including local students and employees from the Avon Lake Lowe’s. General manager Lori Thomas-McCarthy said the home improvement store promotes its employees getting involved in the community, and Empty Bowls by the Lake is always a popular fundraiser.
“Lowe’s is really big on (giving) back to the community, and this one’s been really special to my family, especially my son. So when this opportunity came up — all (employees) get eight hours of give-back time to spend any way they want, and a lot of them jumped right into this because it’s fun, you get to meet people and it’s for a great cause,” Thomas-McCarthy said.
Diane Marrapese, a ceramics teacher at Lorain County Community College, had students from her classes at LCCC — from beginners to senior citizens auditing courses — create roughly 200 bowls for the event.
Marrapese, a ceramics artist for the past 20 years, donated about 45 bowls. She said the event is a chance for her to test new colors, mixing cool tones instead of her usual warmer colors to give attendees a variety to pick from.
Like Kirchner, one of Marrapese’s favorite things about the event is the variety of bowls, especially the ones made by middle school students. From a green headless dragon to a girl wrapped in a robe and ready for a bath, the younger students let their imagination run wild.
“I see what the adults make, I see what the college students make and it seems to me — no offense college kids — but the (younger) ones don’t have that kind of fear, they’re not worried what its going to turn out like, they just jump two feet in,” Marrapese said.