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Main Event: Empty Bowls serve as important reminder

November 22, 2017

It was another record-setting year — for both attendance and dollars raised — at the 13th annual Empty Bowls event, a fundraiser for Channel One Regional Food Bank.

More than 1,300 people attended the event, held Oct.12 at the Rochester Art Center, and raised more than $45,000 for Channel One to provide meals to those in need.

“With each dollar, we are able to provide four meals to those in need in our area,” said Linda Olson, development and communications director at Channel One. “The money raised at this year’s Empty Bowls will provide 180,000 meals.”

“It’s so gratifying to see all the people here today,” said Susan Ahlquist, Channel One’s incoming board chairwoman. “Funds raised will help to move people along the continuum towards self-sufficiency and well-being.”

Guests began arriving well before 11 a.m. to dine on a simple meal of soup and bread — all donated by local businesses — and then choose a beautifully crafted bowl to take with them. The bowl serves as a reminder of all the empty bowls that are in our community every day.

Bowls were created throughout the year at Color Me Mine, Lourdes High School, the Federal Medical Center, and Rochester Community and Technical College. Some 350 bowls were created by faculty, staff, and students at RCTC throughout the year in ceramics class, said Crist Dahl, lab assistant at RCTC’s art department.

The soup and bread were served by a number of celebrity servers throughout the day. James Rabe, radio personality at 103.9 The Doc, was one of four lunch time soup servers.

“I serve for two reasons,” he said. “One, I used to be on the board (of Channel One), I love the organization. Two, I love seeing the people, hanging out with them. Telling them, ‘Thank you for coming.’”

Attendees Russ and Jan Bruhnke said they came to Empty Bowls because they are big supporters of Channel One. They helped collect 20,000 pounds of food with their son’s cub scout troop when he was younger. Jan and her son now volunteer at Channel One. Jan also painted bowls with her colleagues for the event.

Lydia Ewing-Green attended the event with her colleague from People of Hope Church, Alex Aivars.

“This is my fourth year at Empty Bowls, I love the cause,” Ewing-Green said. “A lot of people work very hard and still can’t make ends meet.”

Ewing-Green said she was delighted to take home a bowl.

“I love to use them in my kitchen; the new one becomes my favorite for a while,” she said.

Diane Parker said she has attended so many Empty Bowls events, she has lost count.

“It’s a feel good event — I see lots of people I know — and it’s fun.”

“This is a wonderful community gathering,” said Pat Balstad, who attended with a group of six co-workers from Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science student services. The group previously got together to make bowls for the event at Color Me Mine.

Melody Himle attended the event with her mom, Edith Spittler. The two are from the Wabasha area.

“We enjoy getting the soup and bowls,” Himle said. “The best part is supporting Channel One.”

“I come every year,” said Sharon Van DeNorth. “Channel One is a fantastic organization doing great work in Rochester and the extended area. The event is a good reminder that not everybody has a full bowl every day. There are many more than we realize.”