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  • Writer's pictureBecki Henderson-Gow

Empty Bowls - Giving Back to the Community

Spring is the time of year I like to put my talent to work by creating bowls for the many organizations that hold Empty Bowls Events. These fundraisers range from large to small, but each event raises money for the local food banks and soup kitchens, that in turn provide food for those who need it the most. The Empty Bowls concept is simple. Guests select a handmade pottery bowl, eat a simple meal of soup and bread and leave knowing their donation will be used to help feed those who are daily living with empty bowls.

This past year, has been particularly hard for so many people. The pandemic has created a difficult situation for those who have not been able to work. It has thrown many families into financial distress. Often times, those who were completely self-sufficient found themselves in a situation they had never dreamed would be in. Luckily, the local food banks and other charitable organizations have helped put food on the tables of those who need it the most. These organizations do not have endless supplies of food or endless cash, but depend on donations and fundraisers to carry them throughout the year.

My interest in Empty Bowls began many years ago when I was teaching pottery at St Stephens High School. I learned of an Empty Bowls event in Charlotte and contacted this group to see how my students and I could participate. We made centerpieces for the tables the first year and took a field trip to downtown Charlotte to help setup, serve the meal and cleanup. What a wonderful way to teach my students the value of giving to others. It was also rewarding to me. I wanted to bring this fundraiser to the community of Catawba County, so my students could help those who were in our own neighborhoods.

Hosting an Empty Bowls event is quite an undertaking. I quickly learned how much work was involved in sponsoring such an event. Planning was extremely important and I was forced to take on several new roles including event planner, donation gatherer, advertising agent plus teaching my students to make bowls for the event. I was grateful to the many local restaurants that were willing to supply us with large donations of soup. I was also very thankful to the teachers who donated their time the night of the event to help organize the soups and keep student volunteers on task. To make our event even more special, our drama and chorus students provided special entertainment. Each year following the event, we were able to supply the Hickory Soup Kitchen and the Corner Table in Newton with a monetary donation to help fight hunger.

When I retired from my teaching job in Catawba County, I decided to do what I could to continue supporting Empty Bowls Events. At one time, I was providing bowls for Ashe County, Avery County, Catawba County and Watauga County events. Recently, I have contributed bowls for Empty Bowls in Winston-Salem, sponsored by the Second Harvest Food Bank. Last year was quite unusual when all of these events were cancelled due to the pandemic. It was a very difficult year for everyone. I missed making these special bowls.

This year, Second Harvest Food Bank in Winston-Salem has become creative with their Empty Bowls tradition by sponsoring a drive thru event. This will be their twentieth year of hosting this fundraiser. The photo above depicts the 100 bowls I made for them this year. This event is scheduled for April 28 at Bridger Field House in Winston-Salem, NC between 11-6. More information and tickets to this event can be purchased online at

I have also recently created bowls for a local, non social Empty Bowls Event sponsored by the Watauga Arts Council. Their event is scheduled April 24-25 at the King Street Art Collective in downtown Boone. Contact for more information or to purchase tickets to this event.

If I have learned anything this past year, it is that we all have to become innovative as we forge ahead with our lives and it is even more important that we reach out to others and provide help when we can where it is needed.

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