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Empty Bowls event preparing for large crowd in 17th year

After running out of bowls quickly last year, organizers for Empty Bowls are prepared for a potentially large crowd.

The 17th annual event will be held at the Oxford Conference Center on Feb. 13 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Empty Bowls is a fundraiser for The Pantry, a nonprofit organization that helps provide food to those in need throughout Oxford and Lafayette County. Attendees purchase a handmade bowl, and get to fill it with a soup of their choice as part of the event.

Less than an hour into last year’s event, all bowls had been purchased – 1,000 in all. This year, they are planning to make over 1,200 bowls after organizers asked their potters and they agreed to increase their usual production order.

The biggest contributor to the event is the Mud Daubers, a ceramics club made up of graduate students at the University of Mississippi. Typically, the Mud Daubers make around 500 to 600 bowls, but they made over 1,000 bowls for this year’s event. Other bowls will be made by Ron Dale, Ashley Chavis and Mary Sexton Loria.

Oxford’s Empty Bowls was started in 2004 by Dale and June Rosentreter, and the inaugural event was held at Oxford-University Methodist Church. Since then, the event has grown not only in terms of attendance, but in amount of community support, causing the event to be relocated to the Oxford Conference Center.

“We made soups our first year, and we immediately ran out of soups and bowls,” said committee member Dorothy Laurenzo. “We couldn’t believe so many people came. It was amazing. … It’s my favorite local fundraiser because it’s affordable for almost everyone. You don’t have to dress up. It’s not black tie. You don’t have to buy a ticket ahead of time. You simply show up on your lunch hour and get in line for a beautiful handmade bowl and some soup.”

There will be soups donated by 25 different restaurants, bread donated by four restaurants and bottled water provided by SPARC Broadband, North East Mississippi Electric Power Association’s fiber initiative. The price for the soup and a bowl, which people will get to take home with them, is $20 at the door.

Laurenzo said the event has raised roughly $20,000 for The Pantry in recent years.

Those who are unable to leave their office or make it to the Oxford Conference Center are can place orders, which will be delivered by a group of volunteers who will sell the bowls to offices around Oxford.

The Empty Bowls national program began in 1990, when an art teacher at a Michigan high school came up with an idea for his students to raise money for those who could not afford food themselves.