"Empty Bowls marks sweet 16", Sun Sailor, March 2014

Matthew Hankey
Sun Sailor
March 5, 2014

Annual event is fundraiser for ResourceWest, ICA Food Shelf 

Last December, Empty Bowls organizer Barb Westmoreland asked Hopkins City Council member Jason Gadd, and his wife, Laura Chesney-Gadd, if they would be the 2014 community cochairs for the annual fundraiser.

Gadd has made bowls for the event for nearly a decade, and Laura has been making bowls for more than five years. When Westmoreland approached them, it was almost as if their decision had already been made.

“We pretty much knew as soon as she asked that we would do it,” said Chesney-Gadd. “It’s such an honor to serve in this capacity.”

“It’s hard to say no to Barb,” Gadd said with a laugh during a phone interview last week.

“We love Barb,” added Chesney-Gadd.

It was Westmoreland’s vision that brought Empty Bowls to Hopkins in the first place, said Gadd.

“She is one of the main reasons Empty Bowls exists here in Hopkins, and it’s her passion that makes it possible,” he said.

Sixteen years ago, Westmoreland brought to Hopkins the idea for a grassroots  food shelf fundraiser that began in 1990 at Lahser High School in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. Funds raised are donated to nonprofits ResourceWest and the ICA Food Shelf.

In 1999, the inaugural Empty Bowls kicked off when Hopkins Public Schools art teachers and Westmoreland, along with other leaders in Hopkins Community Education, saw the growing need for a fund raiser for hunger in our own community.

And, art students and community potters have been creating hundreds of unique soup bowls for the event ever since, said Westmoreland.

Sixteen years later, Empty Bowls has grown to be a true community tradition, Gadd said.

“It brings together students, parents, families, businesses that donate, musicians, craftsman,” he said. “It just brings everybody together in one event.”

The 16th annual Empty Bowls event is 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 11, at the Hopkins Center for the Arts, 1111 Mainstreet, Hopkins.

Attendants will be able to choose their favorite handmade soup, enjoy live music and make a donation at the event.

The Hopkins Schools community has raised $776,675 to assist those in need through the work of ResourceWest and ICA Food Shelf, Westmoreland said.

Last year, more than $80,000 was raised and Westmoreland has set her sights on the same amount this year.

As community co-chairs, Gadd and Chesney-Gadd, along with other community leaders, were invited to a Hopkins High School ceramics class last month to try their hands at creating their own bowls.

Gadd said the students are as enthusiastic as the community leaders.

“Being able to interact with the high school students, they are amazing and they gave great training,” he said. “More than that, it’s a tribute, I really think, to the Hopkins School District. This really wouldn’t be possible without the school district.”

Helping neighbors in need

Last year, ICA Food Shelf provided more than 13,000 food assists with more than 1.6 million pounds of food. It also distributed $253,000 to assist families with rent, mortgage and utilities. Roughly half of the families who use ICA have children, with one quarter being single head of household families.

In 2013, ResourceWest connected more than 10,000 West Metro residents to the resources they needed, including emergency resources (and financial support) to more than 600 families, more than 1,100 Second Harvest commodity food packages and more than 100 emergency food bags on behalf of ICA.

Though located in Hopkins, Chesney-Gadd said Empty Bowls has regional appeal and all are welcome.

“It’s not limited to just those in Minnetonka or Hopkins,” she said. “We encourage everybody to come and support their neighbors. It’s a great opportunity to see what can be done by a community to help those in the community.”

For more information, visit hopkinsSchools.org/emptybowls, facebook/hopkinsemptybowls or contact Barb Westmoreland at barb.westmoreland@hopkinsschools.org.