Guest Post by Leslie Mladinich, Ambassador for Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano:
Ten gallons of soup at the Food Bank’s Empty Bowls event in Fairfield and Concord filled hand-sculpted, artisan craft bowls of local hunger fighters attending this important fundraiser– the meal and bowl a sober reminder that 1 in 8 of our food insecure neighbors can’t afford this simple luxury.
The attendees gathered under the roofs of the Food Bank’s Concord and Fairfield warehouses for the fun and poignant event that raised critical funds for Food Bank clients through event ticket and raffle sales, plus many corporate sponsorships. This year, rain fell outside during each location’s event over an October weekend, making the delicious smells of potato with bacon, vegetable and Italian bean soup even more tempting.
Bowls of every size, shape and color – crafted and donated by artists through the Walnut Creek Clay Arts Guild, Solano Community College, Los Medanos College, Richmond Art Center, Contra Costa College and Cheryl Wolf Ceramics – greeted and excited event attendees, who got to choose their bowl before sitting down for soup. Only the participants’ hands touched their bowls, as they were displayed by volunteers wearing gloves!
Some attendees have supported the Food Bank from afar for many years and wanted to do even more to help after watching a stirring video following the meal about Colleen, a Food Bank client. Colleen, like many of our neighbors, has to routinely choose between paying for medication or buying food.
First-time Empty Bowls attendee Sandy McCann of Antioch was one of them. McCann bought an event ticket which entitled her to a bowl. But she ended up leaving the event with three. Like some of the 150 participants in Concord, she was surprised to win the bowl at her table that held bread just by sitting in a lucky seat. When more bowls were for sale at the end of the evening, she completed her set of three blue bowls.
McCann has been giving to the Food Bank for many years, and she said it was great to finally see the operations during tours that were offered.
“We give through work,” she said of her Contra Costa County office in Martinez. “We have a donation bowl near the coffee machine. Half goes to a social event and half goes to the Food Bank.”
She said she wishes she could give more.
“If I were retired, I would be here all of the time volunteering,” she said.
The Empty Bowls event couldn’t be as successful without the scores of volunteers who helped, from Loaves and Fishes James Porter, who has supported Empty Bowls for years, to soup chefs Joseph Ramirez, Jonathan Snyder and Jehoshaphat Williams of Bay Area Rescue Mission. Long time Ambassadors Lois and Charlie Mitchell of Walnut Creek smiled with every ladle of soup they poured for participants.
“I got the opportunity to do something positive with my life,” said Snyder, one of the three soup chefs. “It was an honor to be able to help the community.”