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Empty Bowls Project: Fight hunger through art

Staff Report~ 10/8/2014

CAREFREE – The 14th Annual Foothills Empty Bowls Project lunch is set for Friday, Oct. 17, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Empty bowls fundraises for the Foothills Food Bank, which services a wide radius of the north valley.

The Sonoran Arts League, the Town of Carefree, Carefree Resort & Conference Center, Marjon Ceramics, and Laguna Clay are inviting the public to help fight hunger through the Empty Bowls Project. It will take place at the Carefree Town Center on Easy Street.

As in previous years, patrons can choose to purchase an original, artist-crafted bowl, dine on pasta provided by Carefree Resort & Conference Center, and bid on the artwork offered by members of the Sonoran Arts League in the silent auction. More than 2,000 hand-crafted ceramic and glass bowls will be available for a minimum donation of $15. Credit cards are accepted. All proceeds benefit the Foothills Food Bank and Resource Center.

Pam DiPietro, the food bank’s executive director, said rising food costs and a slow economic recovery continue to make it challenging to provide food, toiletries, and financial assistance to the more than 5,000 families the Foothills Food Bank serves in Anthem, New River, Desert Hills, Carefree, Cave Creek, and other North Valley neighborhoods.

“No matter what is publicly conceived, the economy is not getting better,” DiPietro said. “Many people lost jobs during the recession and now have found employment, but for half of what they were originally earning.  They have expenses they cannot alter – mortgage payments, car payments, food costing more, and children in school.  They come to us and we help as much as we can.  But it's not enough.”

DiPietro said the Foothills Food Bank is spending more money on food purchases than ever before, and space is becoming an issue, even though they recently moved into a new building. “We try to help our clients with information about individual resources that may be available to them.  Our challenge is finding the space to work out of and finding volunteers and mentors who will work with our clients on a one-to-one basis.”

The Great Recession also took its toll on the volunteer artists who donated many hours of labor to create the ceramic and glass bowls. Carole Perry of Laughing Glass Studio organized the first Foothills Empty Bowls Project Lunch and has served as event chair for the past 14 years. “Some of our local artists had to turn to the Food Bank for assistance during the recession. The art business was one of the hardest hit, and many of our active artists were forced to take other jobs to survive. The Food Bank was a tremendous resource during the transition from artist to employee for several of our members,” she said.

While the event should be fine this year with the number of bowls, Perry is concerned about next year and beyond. “We need volunteers now to make bowls for next year,” she said.

Perry is grateful to the many artists who have supported Empty Bowls over the years. “Pat Markham is – and has been for years – our most generous and committed potter. She always creates between 100-150 bowls for us, plus she and her husband Mike work all day at the Empty Bowls Lunch event. This year, we have two new dedicated potters, Casey Cheuvront and Michelle Katz of Desert Dragon Studios, committed to making 200-250 bowls. We have a number of glass artists, besides ourselves, contributing glass bowls as well,” Perry said.

Empty Bowls continues to be the Foothills Food Bank’s largest fundraiser, and Perry hopes people will turn out in droves for this year’s event. “All event services are donated and 100 percent of proceeds benefit the food bank. It’s a wonderful way to help others in need, you can’t beat the food and ambience, and it’s a fun way to catch up with friends and family,” she said.

For more information about the 14th Annual Foothills Empty Bowls Project, call (480) 488-1145 or visit www.foothillsfoodbank.com or www.SonoranArtsLeague.org.