Empty bowls fundraiser feeds 500 hungry souls

Community lines up to support homeless shelter

Posted: Monday, April 24, 2006

At the front of the soup line Sunday night, David Deitz said it should be obvious why he showed up more than an hour early for the Glory Hole's Empty Bowl fundraiser.

"Because of that," he said, pointing to the line snaking through Centennial Hall. The hundreds of hungry people had all paid $25 for a bowl of soup, bread and a beverage - and a choice of a bowl to take home. More than 500 bowls were donated for this year's event, mostly by local potters.

"They know that to get the super-duper bowls they need to come early," said John Gaguine, a board member for the Glory Hole. The downtown homeless shelter started the annual event in 2004.

At the Glory Hole, people wait in line for every meal, said Jetta Whittaker, the Glory Hole's executive director. On Sunday night the Glory Hole diners were waiting for a dinner of pasta with meatballs, which began with a prayer.

"We add kidney beans for additional protein and add cabbage and corn," said Karen Lawfler, a volunteer cook from Resurrection Lutheran Church. There's also salad to make it a balanced meal. The tricky part is planning ahead to make the food go around, she said.

"We do one Sunday a month," she said. A calendar in the kitchen shows what churches serve when, making sure there's a volunteer cook every night. Even the churches displaced by fires earlier this year - Holy Trinity Episcopal and Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran - have nights.

Back at Centennial Hall, there was plenty of food, and bowls, to go around. More than 500 bowls were donated for this year's event, mostly by local potters.

Gaguine and board member Barb Sharp were selling remaining tickets as people began moving past them. The long line, Sharp said, "affirms to me the support people have to "the Glory Hole."

Deitz picked out a bowl made of wood.

"My son calls that art by 'accident,'" said Marion Gotschall, standing in front of Deitz as they got their soup. Her husband had made the bowl Deitz chose, she said.

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"It's a compliment," Don Gotschall said, to see people choosing his bowls. Gotschall said he donated four or five fruits of his hobby this year. He has worked at the Glory Hole and serves food there with Northern Light Church.

Shortly after the event started, Whittaker said it was a success. It is the Glory Hole's single biggest fundraiser each year.

"We hope it's going to be a very long tradition," Whittaker said. The bowls are "an incredible gift for the potters to give to keep the Glory Hole open."

There also were the people volunteering their time. In addition to Juneau Rotary Club members serving, members of the People to People youth group bussed tables as a community service project.

"We can help directly," said 14-year-old Lauren Tibbitts. "It isn't just donating food."

But the night wouldn't have been complete without the soup donation.

"It appears just about all the restaurants in town donated," said Ella Rogers, general manager of the Glacier Restaurant, the volunteer official caterer of the event said in the kitchen. The 24 soups were put out at different times. Depending on where people were standing in line, they were able to choose spicy tomato and fresh basil; turkey, spinach and carrot, broccoli and cheddar; or a hominy and red curry soup.

Pat Prather was one of the people admiring the bowls at Centennial Hall while eating the soup. She said she uses bowls from the previous Empty Bowl dinners to take things to work. "They're very decorative," she said.

"I come to contribute to the Glory Hole, and I come to get a nice bowl," she said. "And the soup's good too."

• Tony Carroll can be reached at tony.carroll@juneauempire.com.

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