SCOUTING AROUND: Empty Bowls fills dining hall to capacity with generosity
Brasstown – Ever since the Empty Bowls fundraiser started 13 years ago, Donna Stevens of Marble found a way to be there, even during the years she lived in Florida.
“We love the event,” Stevens said. “It helps feed the people, and you get a beautiful piece of pottery from a local potter. … My cupboard is full of all the bowls.”
She and her husband were two of the 176 tickets sold for the event, which raises funds for the Cherokee County Sharing Center food pantry in Murphy and the Clay County Food Pantry in Hayesville. Tickets for the event have sold out every year, and the Olive Dame Campbell Dining Hall at John C. Campbell Folk School was filled to capacity for the second year in a row.
As The Pressley Girls performed music, supporters lined up along the walkway leading to the dining hall entrance until they were allowed in the screened deck to pick out one of many bowls made and donated by 12 local potters. When they stepped inside the dining hall, a roundtable filled with more local pottery – some serving bowls, some vases and even a tea kettle – provided the opportunity to select what items they wanted to win in the Brown Bag Raffle.
Then, one of 18 volunteers helped them find a table in one of the rooms, where they found a serving bowl filled with beef and barley soup, another with house salad, plus a basket of sliced fresh white bread. Those who preferred a vegetarian option could fill their soup bowl with a carrot butternut squash and ginger soup topped with a cilantro cream. Chocolate chip cookies were passed out for dessert.
Mike Lalone, clay resident artist at the folk school, started the event for the artists to give back. He is grateful that the community has supported it over the years.
“This is something I love doing,” Lalone beamed. “We want to help the community. It’s something I believe in.”
The leaders of the two food pantries were also grateful. Robert Merrill, director of the Sharing Center, said last year was a difficult year for the pantry, as overall donations from the community were less than usual.
“People like this, people who help out, we count on to do what we do,” Merrill said.
He said 1,000 unique families in Cherokee County received services from the Sharing Center last year.
“There’s a lot of needy people in our county who need food assistance,” said Fred Sickel, president of the Clay County Food Pantry.
He said 10,500 families visited the pantry last year, serving a total of 27,300 individuals. Funds raised from the event would help food.
Volunteers from both pantries – seven from the Sharing Center, five from Clay County – helped at the event. Other volunteers for the event were from the folk school, and some were potters who made the bowls. Chris Jones, a studio assistant at the folk school, made or partially made 180 bowls.
“It’s a great cause,” Jones said. “And it’s great to interact with other potters. It’s a rare treat for all of us to get together and give back.”
Jerry Jackson, executive director of the folk school, announced that he challenged Lalone to raise more money than last year, which would be hard since that event set a record and the same number of tickets were sold. Lalone said he would not be sure of the total raised until later in the week, but thought the event went very well.
Jackson said he would like to see many more people be able to support the event next year, and suggested a different, larger venue may be needed.
Head chef Jarrett Palmer said while it was not more food than they normally make in a day for three meals at the folk school, it was at capacity for one meal. His team of five people made all the food that day – 44 gallons of soup total, 60 gallons of salad and 30 loaves of bread.
Lalone was also grateful to see four elected officials present – Murphy Mayor Rick Ramsey, Cherokee County Commissioner Cal Stiles, plus state Rep. Kevin Corbin and state Sen. Jim Davis (both R-Franklin). He said the officials have attended the event in the past, but not all at once.
As for Stevens, she was happy to do her part to help feed the hungry and support her love of pottery. She said each year her party has grown, and she was able to share this year’s event with her husband and 18 friends.
“Maybe next year we’ll fill the room,” she said. “Who knows?”
Farmers market returns
The L&N Depot in Murphy will be filled with tables of produce, jams, baked goods, and crafts from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, April 6, when the 2019 season of the farmers market opens.
The market already has about 10 vendors signed up, but organizers are still welcoming vendors to apply for a spot at the market. It is just $5 a week to be a vendor, and vendors must bring their own tables. Canopies are available to rent if the vendor does not have one of their own.
For details, contact Migdalia Jolliffe at 644-8677, or visit Murphy Farmers Market on Facebook.
Samantha Sinclair is the Scouting Around columnist for the Cherokee Scout. You can reach her by email, email@example.com; fax, 837-5832; or by leaving a message in the office at 837-5122.