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The art of doing good: Empty Bowls to be held Oct. 21 at Harold’s Corral


Elizabeth Medora

CAVE CREEK – In Arizona, an estimated 434,840 children don’t know where their next meal is coming from, according to Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap, released in April 2016. This and other reports indicate that Arizona’s rate of food insecurity is higher than the national average, and many children are suffering the effects of not having sufficient food available to them.

These are bleak statistics, with no easy solutions to solving the problems of world hunger or statewide food insecurity, but around the world, including right here in the north valley, people are getting together to try to help. The Empty Bowls Project is self-described as an international grassroots effort to raise both money and awareness in the fight to end hunger, and Empty Bowls events are held around the country in support of organizations like food banks that provide resources for people in need. Through Empty Bowls, artists create unique bowls, which event participants purchase, and all proceeds support designated non-profit organizations.

For 16 years, local artist Carole Perry of the Sonoran Arts League has chaired the local Empty Bowls project, which supports the Foothills Food Bank. Perry and other local artists donate their time and talents making over 2,000 bowls, which are sold at the north valley’s Empty Bowls event, which will be held this year on Friday, Oct. 21, 11a.m.-1 p.m., at Harold’s Corral in Cave Creek.

Empty Bowls is one of the largest fundraisers of the year for the Foothills Food Bank. The food bank and artist volunteers join forces to make this event a success.

In an October news release, Pam DiPietro, the food bank’s executive director, said the need for services has increased nearly 10 percent since last year. As the north valley has grown, so has the need for the food bank, which is reflected in the provisions given out this year.

“In the month of January 2008, the Foothills Food Bank served 74 families with 3,862 pounds of food. By comparison, this past June, we gave 625 families 74,231 pounds of food,” DiPietro said in the news release.

Perry said that the Empty Bowls brings in between $15,000-$20,000 each year for the food bank. All of that money goes directly to the food bank, with nothing held back for expenses.

Perry noted that many of the same artists contribute each year. New artists’ work is featured each year, too. Approximately a dozen artists will participate this year. Students from Cactus Shadows and Chaparral High Schools will also be donating bowls they have made.

These artists who are donating their time, the materials, and their one-of-a-kind creations show tremendous dedication in their work to support the Empty Bowls Project and the Foothills Food Bank. Perry related that an ongoing concern in running the north valley Empty Bowls event is that eventually there won’t be enough bowls to meet the demand. Many artists who have contributed have since retired, and, as the chair of the event, Perry has expressed concern over this. Longtime Empty Bowls volunteer Jim Bruce, an artist who works in cement, stepped up to help. Perry said that Bruce heard of an artist in Anthem who was selling her ceramic studio, and Bruce bought the studio and spent the next several months in classes, working on making bowls.

“All summer, as hot as it was, he was outdoors, working out there,” Perry described. Bruce’s efforts have culminated in the donation of 100 bowls for the event.

“Here’s a guy that every year, he comes and does everything we need in schlepping stuff,” Perry said, noting how Bruce has always volunteered with Empty Bowls. “He’s always there for the hardest jobs.”

Empty Bowls has a new location this year at Harold’s Corral in Cave Creek. Past events have been held in the Carefree Town Center, but the location logistics didn’t work out this year. Perry said that future Empty Bowls will also likely be held on the grounds of Harold’s; this longtime Cave Creek restaurant donates the pasta lunch offered at Empty Bowls, and this will save moving tables, chairs, and food items back and forth. Perry noted another benefit, this one environmental. Water bottles have traditionally been handed out at Empty Bowls; this year, large water jugs will be available for patrons to fill their own bottles, cutting down on the amount of plastic being thrown away at the end of the day.

“People can actually come and fill their water container, and no trash is created,” Perry said. “Bring your water bottle, and fill it as often as you like.”

Empty Bowls brings the community together in supporting a good cause. Participants who purchase bowls have a tangible reminder of the need that exists all over the world, as well as the fact that no matter the difficulties and division that exists, people are still working together to do good.

Perry describes Empty Bowls as something that makes her “so happy” to be part of.

“At the end of that day – you just go away on a cloud,” she said. “It’s not just that you’ve done something for others, but you’ve had a great time doing it and you’ve been doing it together.”


Empty Bowls 2016
Where: Harold’s Corral, 6895 E. Cave Creek Rd., Cave Creek, AZ
When: Friday, Oct. 21, 11 a.m.-1 p.m.
More information: (480) 488-1145 or