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Empty Bowls and Stone Soup

Posted: April 27, 2013 - 11:03pm

Empty Bowls, a fundraiser Sunday evening from 5-7 p.m. at Centennial Hall for Juneau’s Glory Hole shelter, shares many similarities with the story “Stone Soup.” This folktale, beloved by cultures around the world, tells of hungry travelers who appear on the outskirts of a small village right before supper time, with not much more than an empty pot. They build a cooking fire, fill the pot with water and an ordinary stone from the side of the road, and begin looking as though they are prepared to eat something delicious. Soon one of the villagers, drawn by curiosity or by hunger, comes to visit the fire. The strangers inform him that a delicious soup will soon be ready. They would be happy to share their meal, but for optimum taste the soup could still be improved by a few potatoes. The villager volunteers the potatoes. Another villager approaches, hears about the soup and returns with carrots, another contributes salt and pepper. One by one, many villagers contribute to the soup turning it from stone and water to a delicious meal. In the end, everyone shares a satisfying meal. The story has many wonderful messages, the most fundamental among them being: collaboration is great for all involved.

Collaboration is exactly what Empty Bowls is about. Most of the restaurants in Juneau (17 in total), dozens of artists, Native corporations, mining companies, people experiencing hunger and homelessness, Churches, environmental law firms, outdoor gear shops, caterers, a health food store, bakeries, law firms, a construction company, oil companies, doctor’s offices, students, athletes, a seafood processor association, accounting firms, curators of museums, owners of coffee shops, radio personalities, journalists, dentists, state workers and more, all come together to feed the hungry and shelter the homeless in the Juneau community.

That support is badly needed. According to Mariya Lovishchuk, Executive Director of the Glory Hole, in 2012 the organization provided more than 56,000 meals and almost 10,000 shelter nights. The Glory Hole also provides extensive services including street outreach, housing and job assistance, showers, laundry, transportation assistance, food boxes for families in need and help to those experiencing disabilities. The numbers of service recipients and the overall need are, unfortunately, on the rise.

According to Feeding America, a leading national charity, one out of every six Americans is hungry or food insecure. According to last year’s Point in Time count conducted by community service providers and the Juneau Homeless Coalition, there were approximately 560 individuals experiencing homelessness in Juneau in 2012, and the annual Project Homeless Connect saw more participants this year than ever before. However, Lovishchuk is optimistic.

“The Glory Hole, with many of our partners, strives to ensure that the basic needs of our citizens, specifically the need for shelter and food, are met,” Lovishchuck said. “While the need is increasing, we believe that our current staff, strategic approaches, and community support allows us to be more effective than ever at assisting our clients toward physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. We live in a wonderful community, and Empty Bowls is a great example of how if everyone contributes, a lot can be accomplished.”

For those who have not yet attended or heard about the event, guests arrive at Centennial Hall at around 5 p.m. to find tables full of beautiful ceramic and wooden bowls created by local artists. After choosing a bowl to take home, attendees spend the evening eating soups donated by their favorite restaurants, bread baked by Juneau’s Wild Oven Bakery, and cookies from skilled local bakers. There is music throughout the evening, a live and silent auction. There are also friends and neighbors. Everything at the event, other than some of the paper goods, supplies, and rental fees, is donated by the community.

This year, a record amount of turners contributed bowls their bowls. Brandon Howard, Ceramics Manager at the Canvas, said that their kiln has been working around the clock for the past two weeks. Paul Voelkers, a Juneau potter was bringing in his beautiful ceramic bowls, as the Glory Hole staff were interviewed for the article. Neil Slotnick, a regular contributor of bowls created from local wood summarized the event perfectly, “Empty Bowls is so touching. It is such an apt fundraiser. It symbolizes what you are supposed to do. Feed the hungry.”

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