Friday evening, April 25 the annual Empty Bowls event was hosted by the Giving Circle of HOPE at Floris United Methodist Church on Frying Pan Road in Herndon. All proceeds went directly to Food for Others, the largest distributor of free food to needy people in Northern Virginia. “This is a collaboration between the Giving Circle of HOPE and a local organization,” said Linda Strup, a resident of Reston and member of the Giving Circle of HOPE.
The Giving Circle of HOPE was founded in January 2004 with four members. Since then, membership has grown to over 100 individuals. Voting members contribute a minimum of $1 per day and are eligible to vote on grants. Service members do not vote but may participate in all service programs and social events. “This is our seventh year of doing an Empty Bowl event, and we have sold out our tickets,” said Strup.
“We have a small staff of nine employees and about 500 volunteers,” said Jessica Cogen, director of development and outreach at Food for Others and resident of Arlington. “This event is a tremendous support for us and clients from these jurisdictions… This is one of the biggest events for us in the year.” Food for Others is a tax-exempt nonprofit organization funded in part by the Fairfax and Arlington County governments. They also receive funding from foundations, churches and many generous individuals. Dedicated staff and volunteers allow them to maximize service to those in need.
Fairfax County is one of the wealthiest jurisdictions in the country with a poverty rate of 6.8 percent. However, due to its large population, Fairfax County has more residents living in poverty than any other jurisdiction in Virginia. The City of Richmond has a poverty rate of 26.9 percent, but has 52,459 residents living in poverty compared to Fairfax County’s 73,794. According to studies by the U.S. Census, in Fairfax County 1 of 6 people is food insecure. Based on U.S. Census figures, more than 90,000 people are living in poverty and 30 percent are children. “Our organization has had a continually high level of demand that has not gone down since the high levels of the recession between 2008 and 2009,” said Cogen.
EMPTY BOWLS is a grassroots program designed to help end hunger in the United States and worldwide. It was developed by John Hartom, a Michigan art teacher who came up with the idea when he joined a community drive to raise charitable funds. One evening of the event, for a small donation, guests receive a soup supper and a handmade ceramic bowl as a reminder there are those in the community who have empty bowls.
“We had over 700 bowls made by local potters from the Reston Community Center, Herndon Community Center, the Bowman House Arts and Crafts Center in Vienna, and Clay Connection in Alexandria,” said Cathy Waters, an event coordinator with the Giving Circle of Hope. Approximately 60 potters helped make the ceramic bowls. “They start making new bowls almost as soon as the event is over,” said Waters.
The Reston and Herndon pottery classes at their respective Community Centers made hundreds and hundreds of ceramic bowls for the Empty Bowls fundraiser to benefit Food for Others. “It is a phenomenal thing, I am proud that our community provides food for our neighbors in Northern Virginia,” said Deb Joder, a ceramics instructor at Reston Community Center.
Tim Groszkowski, owner of a Great Harvest Bread Company franchise in Herndon, Ashburn, and Vienna attended the event and provided bread with the soups. Great Harvest Bread Company has supported Giving Circle of HOPE’s Empty Bowl event since the beginning seven years ago. “It is a nice event, and we love to be part of it to support the community,” said Groszkowski.
Girl Scouts from Association 56 and Association 51 refilled drinks, cleaned and bussed tables, greeted guests and helped pick out their bowls upon arrival. Deborah Miles, a Girl Scout Troop advisor for Troop 5644, has volunteered for the event since the beginning back when she was just one of 14 girls from her troop. This year Miles was working with over 76 girls and 28 parents. “The girls love this event, and they ask about the event months before it happens,” said Miles. “The Girl Scouts are phenomenal,” said Reston resident Evelyn Mercantini.
VOLUNTEERING with other members of Girl Scout Troop 6105 was Corina Gribble, a sophomore at Oakton High School. “This is my fourth time volunteering for this event,” said Gribble. “It brings a lot of people together.” Also attending the event was Supervisor Catherine Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill). “The most important part is raising the issue of local hunger,” said Hudgins. “I am glad to be here.”
More information on Food For Others can be found at www.foodforothers.org.