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Local potters help the hungry

October 26, 2000
East Lansing resident Joan Fairey, left, and Dansville resident Michele Mudar look for a bowl Wednesday at a fund-raiser for the American Red Cross Regional Food Distribution Center. The bowls were on sale at the Center for the Arts, 425 S. Grand Ave. in

LANSING - For the 10th year in a row, Lansing area potters created more than 850 bowls to help feed the hungry.

More than 800 people stopped by the Center for the Arts, 425 S. Grand Ave. in Lansing, for the event, which ran all day Wednesday.

Empty Bowls is the only fund-raiser for the American Red Cross Regional Food Distribution Center, said Kathe DeMara Smith, the center’s operations supervisor. The center distributes food to 189 food pantries in seven mid-Michigan counties.

“It takes (the potters) all year,” Smith said. “They always set aside certain things for this event.

“They’re thinking about hunger all year long.”

The Empty Bowls project is held every year.

Clayworks and the Greater Lansing Potter’s Guild, two pottery organizations in the area, supply most of the bowls, with a few independent artists also contributing.

Smith said more than $9,000 was raised during the lunch hour, which is their busiest time. The event is expected to raise about $12,000 for the organization.

Fifteen dollars, all of which goes to the cause, bought patrons soup, bread, water and a handcrafted bowl. The simple meal helps remind people what it’s like to be hungry, Smith said.

“You get a bowl and you get your soup, and every time you take it out of the cupboard it will remind you someone doesn’t have food,” she said. “It makes them think about helping out.”

Lansing resident Julann Vittone said she’s been coming to the event for the past five years for three reasons.

“Good cause, good food and number three is the bowls,” she said. “Knowing that the money goes back into the community locally - I think it’s a great thing.”

The event started with a Metro Detroit teacher, said Judy Labovitz, one of the people responsible for bringing Empty Bowls to Lansing.

Labovitz said they picked the American Red Cross Regional Food Distribution Center to be the recipient of their donations because they supply food for so many shelters in the state.

“It had to go to an organization that helped the hungry,” she said. “I didn’t want to pick out one shelter over another. It just all fell into place.”

Maureen Ryan, a Lansing potter, said working with clay has helped her through hard times in her life and she’s glad her work is helping others as well.

“Art is very therapeutic,” she said. “It’s just such a good feeling - having it go to such a good cause.

“No one wants anyone to go hungry.”

The large crowd brought out more of Ryan’s work as well.

“We were running out of bowls,” she said. “We were just mobbed, so I brought five more. It’s just growing and growing.”

Vicki Rakowski and her family have been donating to the food bank for many years but this is the first time they’ve come to Empty Bowls.

“It’s kind of fun and (we) get a chance to have our daughter visibly see what her donation can do,” the Lansing resident said. “It’s a fun way to do this. It’s very symbolic and it certainly fits the need.”

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