Rainy weather made for a perfect night for soup on Thursday (Feb. 7), as supporters came out to enjoy some dinner and art at the fourth annual "Empty Bowls" event.
Sponsored by the Van Buren High School Art Club, the event raises funds to support the Community Services Clearinghouse's Meals for Kids backpack program in the Van Buren School District.
For $15, guests could select a handmade ceramic bowl of their choice and enjoy hot vegetable soup and bread. All of the bowls used for the dinner were created by art students at Van Buren High School. More than 220 bowls were crafted by 150 students for the event. At the end of the evening, guests were able to take their bowl home with them.
Several individuals and groups worked together to organize "Empty Bowls." The meal was prepared by the VBHS cafeteria staff using ingredients collected through FCCLA's (Family, Career and Community Leaders of America) school-wide canned food drive. Student art club members donated their time by serving as greeters, ticket-takers and dishwashers at the event.
The fundraiser helps offset some of the costs associated with the Meals for Kids program, which provides a backpack of food every weekend to children in need. In Van Buren, 269 children are currently enrolled in the program, at an estimated collective cost of $1,075 per week.
Locally, Meals for Kids services 74 total schools, providing food to 2,447 children on a weekly basis.
In addition to the dinner, guests could also bid on items in the silent auction or purchase pieces from the discount art sale. The auction included bowls and other creations by local artists, including Fort Smith based potter/artist Peter Lippincott. Drawings, paintings, sketchings and pottery by former VBHS art students were featured in the art sale.
"The students enjoy making the bowls and being a part of this," said Kara Holland, VBHS art teacher. "The payoff really comes when they present the Clearinghouse with a check and hear about how the money is used to benefit area children. That really brings it home."
Last year's event raised more than $2,000 and organizers hoped to meet, if not exceed that goal this year.
The Community Services Clearinghouse (CSC) is very grateful to the school for its support of the Meals for Kids program.
"Empty Bowls has donated at least one month's of service to the Van Buren school children each year for the last four years" said Sue Robison, CSC Community Relations Director. "This is a tremendous gift to the Clearinghouse because it allows us to purchase more food for Van Buren by taking away a huge amount of our budget."
Holland and her students have already begun planning for next year's event. "We are tossing around some new ideas in terms of bringing in soup varieties and getting more of the community involved," said Holland. "We are excited to see what next year holds."