Empty Bowls fundraiser a success

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Posted: Saturday, February 8, 2014 4:28 pm | Updated: 9:32 pm, Sat Feb 8, 2014.

Jillian Lyerla enjoyed a bowl of chili Saturday afternoon with her husband Ronald and their son.

Lyerla was just one of several hundred people to attend the Empty Bowls Dothan 2014 event held at the Cultural Arts Center.

“We all got chili, and it’s wonderful,” Lyerla said. “We’re happy to support the cause.”

Lyerla said they attended the event at least in part because she, too, is a potter. She serves as a volunteer pottery teacher at Fort Rucker.

Brenda Register, one of the event coordinators, said for $10 someone attending the event could get a handmade pottery bowl, a bowl of soup and some bread and water. The $10 went to the Wiregrass Area United Way Food Bank.

Register said the event, in its second-year, more than doubled its goal of handmade pottery bowls to sell. She said last year they sold out within an hour, selling around 230 bowls.

“The bowl is symbolic because you can feed people out of it, and it’s also a piece of art,” Register said.

Register said for the 2014 event they added several new items, including expanding the artist vendors and the addition of a silent auction. There were two handmade pottery bowls included in the auction, one signed by Auburn football coach Gus Malzahn and another signed by Alabama football coach Nick Saban. Register said the auction also included a football signed by Troy football coach Larry Blakeney. She said the 2014 event also included door prizes for the first time.

Lyerla said her family enjoyed the whole event, including the art vendors.

“I thought it was very nicely done,” Lyerla said. “I especially enjoyed the photographic prints and the honey. Local honey, I think, is a hard thing to find. So it’s very nice, and we even got to try it with our meal.”


Julie Gonzalez with the Wiregrass Area United Way Food Bank said the goal last year was to sell around 200 bowls and make around $2,000.

Gonzalez said they did not quite sell all of the 500 bowls made this year but the fundraiser brought in $4,385, which she said will provide 38,064 meals to people in the Wiregrass.

“It was a very successful day. We’re able to bring in 11 pounds of food for every dollar donated to the food bank,” Gonzalez said. “That’s going to mean a lot of meals for a lot of hungry people in the Wiregrass.”

Register called the event a success, especially with help from volunteers with the Ya Ya Rita Sisterhood social group.

“Our goal was to have 500 bowls made this year, and we met our goal and more,” Register said. “It’s totally exceeded our expectations.”

Register said five women, including Gonzalez, Sue Register, Lynn Koning, and Ann Cotton with The Cultural Arts Center, made Empty Bowls Dothan 2014 possible.

Register said all the supplies, which included what was needed for the pottery along with the soup, bread, water and dessert , were provided by the close to a dozen sponsors. The sponsors ranged from Five Star Credit Union, The Blue Plate, Zack’s Family Restaurant, Horton Honey Farm, Momma Goldberg’s Deli, Atlanta Bread Co., The Bread Lady, Nantze Springs and Chill Yogurt.

Koning, one of the organizers who spearheaded the bowl-making effort, said the Empty Bowls event was part of a nationwide effort to help the hungry that was first started by a couple in North Carolina.

“This is a worldwide effort, and all the proceeds always go to local hunger relief,” Koning said.

Koning, who teaches bowl-making classes at the Cultural Arts Center, said last year they were able to use some of the proceeds from the artist vendors to help buy a pottery wheel for the center.

Koning also said each handmade pottery bowl was stamped with the words “Empty Bowls Dothan.”

“We’re hoping when they take a bowl home and use it they’ll remember the hungry,” Koning said.


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