By Jacob Mathias
Long lines wound through SPASH on Saturday, as over 1,000 visitors filled their Empty Bowls during the 14th annual fundraising event.
Empty Bowls offered attendees who paid $11 a hand-painted soup bowl made by local artists, community members and children, soup made by local restaurants, bread, a beverage and dessert.
Everything at Empty Bowls is donated so all proceeds can go towards helping the hungry. Nearly $24,000 was raised at the 2014 event. The funds raised at Empty Bowls go toward programs of the Portage County Hunger and Poverty Prevention Partnership, which supports the mobile food pantry, community gardens and provides grants to local organizations that address hunger issues through direct service and education programs.
“We deliver supplemental food items to those who live in rural Portage County. We have elderly, disabled, large families, folks who do not have a car or who do not have money to pay for gas to put in the car, so we deliver it to them,” said Mobile Food Pantry Coordinator Marcy Ferriter. “We have so many people that want us to come to deliver to them because it’s more than just food.”
She said the person to person interaction between pantry workers and the recipients, who are often alone, is an added benefit to both parties.
“We are here because it’s a community effort to raise money for local hunger initiatives,” said Empty Bowls organizer Lauri Rockman.
A raffle, live entertainment, clowns and a pottery demonstration were also on site. Music was provided by the Omnos Quintet and local favorite children’s performer Tom Pease kept children happy with his brand of musical entertainment.
Soups donated by local restaurants, 31 in total, were available to choose from and no one left hungry.
Stevens Point Mayor Mike Wiza won the first ever Celebrity Soup Throwdown with his pheasant and wild rice soup, besting Portage County Executive Patty Dreier’s chicken and dumpling and Village of Plover Administrator Dan Mahoney’s white lightning. The throwdown winner was chosen by cash vote and all told $481 was raised by the contest alone.
Port Edwards potter Joe Clark was hand making clay bowls on his potter’s wheel and finished 50 bowls throughout the day. He will soon fire them in a kiln and donate to an Empty Bowls event in Wood County. He also made 50 bowls for the Portage County event.
“They’re all glazed and set out for people to choose from,” said Clark.
Rockman said the bowls and entire event are made over the the course of the entire year and will soon have to begin planning for the 2016 Empty Bowls.