Hunger-awareness event is a big hit - Catholic Courier

Hunger-awareness event is a big hit

Based on the cause she was serving — supporting a hunger-awareness fundraising event — Barb McClure took the task of making soup for 450 people right in stride.

“Really, if everybody would just do a little like that, it goes a long way,” said McClure, owner of Barb’s Soup’s on Cafe in Elmira.

A long way, indeed. McClure served as a sponsor for of first-ever “Empty Bowls” luncheon, which took place Oct. 16 at the Elmira College Campus Center. Between the $20-per-person admission and corporate sponsorships, the first-time effort raised approximately $11,000 for the Samaritan Center Emergency Services Food Pantry in Elmira, according to Steve Hughes, development director for Catholic Charities of Chemung/Schuyler.

“It exceeded my expectations to a point of great delight,” Hughes said.

The luncheon was held on National Hunger Awareness Day. Participants learned about local anti-poverty efforts, viewing a DVD presentation by Raymond Bryant, superintendent of schools in the City of Elmira. Hughes said it was important to have Bryant’s commentary about undernourished students so people remember that hunger is a local issue as well as a global one.

“Often people think of Third World, underdeveloped countries. The reality is, we’re fighting hunger right here at home, and we never want that message to be lost,” Hughes said, adding that he also sought out Bryant to drive home how hunger is connected to learning: “My feeling was that as important as literacy is, if we don’t meet the most basic needs for our children — and that is nourishment — they go into our school systems unprepared to learn.”

Preparation for the Empty Bowls event went all the way back to early 2006, when Hughes learned of the initiative on a Web site. He then contacted Doug Holtgrewe, an art professor at Elmira College, who organized the effort to design soup bowls that attendees at the luncheon got to keep as commemorative gifts. The potters began working on the bowls last spring.

“It was pretty much a team effort — students, a couple of part-time teachers, a couple of community people,” said Holtgrewe, who further noted that Elmira College footed the bill for some 800 to 900 pounds of clay.

Hughes, who served as mayor of the City of Elmira from 1998 to 2005, also tapped into the corporate community to support Empty Bowls.

“That was easy to do. Virtually every door I knocked on, there was a favorable response for us,” he remarked.

McClure and her staff, for instance, whipped up big pots of chicken-noodle and pumpkin-squash soup.

“They wanted something seasonal,” McClure said of the latter flavor.

Hughes said he would like to make Empty Bowls an annual event, and hopes that participation will rise to 1,000 people by next year.

“We’re keeping that date as kind of reserved,” Hughes said of National Hunger Awareness Day, which observed its fifth year Oct. 16. Hughes added that “we’d love the opportunity” to return to Elmira College, where the staff “did just a phenomenal job — they were, without a doubt, our biggest sponsor.”

Holtgrewe said he hopes to get even more area potters involved for next year. He added that the dollar amount raised for the inaugural event “is really tremendous.”

McClure is looking forward to another Empty Bowls get-together as well.

“I think it’s a great idea, and the bowls are beautiful,” she said. “You can’t do enough for your community. They support us very well; we’ve been blessed. And if we feel we can do anything to help, we try.”

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