'Empty Bowls' events draws attention to hunger issue in Quincy area

Russell Hess Sr., a volunteer from Central Baptist Church, washes dishes during lunchtime at the soup kitchen at St. John's Church in Quincy on Friday. (H-W Photo/Steve Bohnstedt)
Posted: Mar. 1, 2013 10:38 pm Updated: Mar. 15, 2013 11:15 pm

By EDWARD HUSARHerald-Whig Staff Writer

For the second straight year, volunteers are using empty bowls as a symbol for hunger in the Quincy area.

Horizons Social Services, which operates a soup kitchen in the St. John's Church complex at Seventh and Hampshire, will conduct its second "Empty Bowls" fund raiser from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday at Quincy High School.

Tickets priced at $10 per person (or a maximum $50 for a family of five or more) will give patrons access to a soup supper. Everyone with a ticket also will receive one of 1,200 hand-painted bowls, most of which were decorated by local students as a way to raise awareness about the hunger situation.

"One in four children in Adams County go hungry," said Stephanie Erwin, chairman of the "Empty Bowls" project and a member of the Horizons governing board. She called that "a very sad statistic."

"Many of the children who painted bowls for the fund raiser are often receiving service or meals from Horizons," Erwin said. "The number of meals served -- the number of families served -- is staggering. Right here in our immediate area, the numbers just keep increasing."

That's why so many Quincy youngsters decided to help by painting bowls. Erwin said students from five Quincy elementary schools (Ellington, Monroe, Dewey, Washington and Adams), Baldwin Intermediate School, Quincy Junior High School and QHS participated in the project along with students from St. Francis Elementary School, Quincy Notre Dame High School and Quincy University.

In addition, pastors from area churches also painted bowls that will be auctioned during Sunday's fund-raising event. Bidding will start at $10 for those "Bowls of Faith."

One special bowl to be auctioned was painted by QND graduate Jack Cornell, now a member of the Baltimore Ravens. Cornell's bowl will be auctioned along with various signed items he donated from the Ravens' recent Super Bowl victory.

Also, several accomplished local artists painted large coffee table bowls and platters that will be sold.

One of the biggest money-makers will be a raffle of 15 baskets donated by local churches. Some baskets feature popular electronic gadgets, such as an iPad, Kindle or Xbox. One basket features an overnight getaway for two to Heartland Lodge.

An additional activity will give individuals an opportunity -- for a small fee -- to make their own clay bowl using a potter's wheel available at Sunday's event.

All proceeds will be used to assist the soup supper and food pantry programs conducted by Horizons Social Services.

Sarah Stephens, executive director of Horizons, said many students, adults and artists took the bowl-painting project to heart because they realize the importance of providing food to people who might not have enough to eat at home.

Stephens recalled how she was getting ready to start a bowl-painting session with students at Baldwin recently when she asked the students: "Have any of you heard of Horizons?"

A little boy raised his hand and said: "Yeah, my grandma eats there."

Stephens said she was touched by the boy's comment. "It was really a moving moment," she said. "It made me feel this is all worth it. That's what this is all about. It's about the community coming together."

Tickets to Sunday's event can be bought at the door or in advance at Horizons Social Services, Seventh and Hampshire.

The soup kitchen has been operating since 2008, when the Salvation Army discontinued a similar feeding program. Erwin said the demand for free lunchtime meals has continued to grow each year.