Soup’s On! Fill Your Bowl With Hope

Published 4:38 pm Monday, October 5, 2015

Local potter Jim Cullen has been instrumental in organizing the Polk County community’s version of the Empty Bowl project. (Photo by Michael O'Hearn)

Local potter Jim Cullen has been instrumental in organizing the Polk County community’s version of the Empty Bowl project. (Photo by Michael O’Hearn)

An empty bowl can be a good thing, depending on what you do with it.

Not just any ol’ bowl, but a handmade pottery bowl made by someone who wanted to help make the world a better place. A bowl that contributes to an effort to feed needy people in the community. It might be a slick wheel-thrown bowl made by an accomplished local potter. Or it might be a primitive hand-formed bowl made by a child. Each has its own charm — especially when you know why it was made.

On Saturday, Oct. 10, Thermal Belt Outreach Ministry will have about 200 bowls that will be filled with gourmet soup and the hope that the Foothills community will come out to Overmountain Vineyards to eat, drink, and be merry and at the same time raise money to feed our local citizens who are going hungry.

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Point of fact: about one out of four children in Polk County is likely to not have enough to eat today or any other day. Professionals in the charity business call this “food insecurity,” but needy people call it not having enough to eat.

Officially, this is another Empty Bowls project. Empty Bowls is a grassroots charity project that started 25 years ago when a high school teacher wanted his students to do something to help their community in Michigan. They made pottery bowls, got local restaurants to donate soup, and invited the public to get the bowls and the soup for a donation. That money was then given to a charity of their choosing. From that humble beginning, Empty Bowls has gone worldwide with dozens of communities joining potters and charities together to feed the needy. Millions of dollars have been raised. Each effort is different in the details, yet they all share in the basic concept, and no one answers to a higher authority, such as a headquarters or oversight agency.

Locally, Thermal Belt Outreach Ministries partnered with Tryon Arts & Crafts School. Outreach brought the need and administrative know-how to the table. TACS brought pottery skills and much-needed equipment and space.

During this past summer, the school hosted several bowl-making events, where anyone could make one or more bowls. No talent or money was needed. Local potter Jim Cullen, who started and spearheaded Spartanburg’s very successful Hub City Empty Bowls project, made sure there would be clay, instruction, and follow-up — follow-up being the painting, glazing, and firing of the bowls. The result is about 200 bowls are now ready for filling.

Come Oct. 10, those colorful pottery bowls will be waiting at Overmountain Vineyards for socially responsible people to take them home. Not only will the owners get a very warm feeling of doing the right thing, they will get to eat soup provided by Stone Soup, Southside Smokehouse, Larkin’s Carolina Grill, and Giardini Trattoria. Among the soups will be Larkin’s She Crab Soup and Southside’s Cabbage, Apple and Sausage soup. At least one other soup will be vegetarian. In addition, Cool Mama’s Bakery and Southern Manners will provide desserts. Iced tea and water will be provided, and for those who want to imbibe, Overmountain Vineyards will be selling wine, beer, and hard cider. Tickets for bowls and eating privileges are $25 each. Young people, 6-15, will eat all they want for $5 each, and anyone younger than 6 can eat for free.

Imagine: sitting outdoors among the manicured vineyards on a fall evening (4-7 p.m.) eating some of the best soup you’ve ever had, drinking wine, and listening to live music by Phil & Gaye Johnson, noted local musicians of acoustic Americana, a blending of traditional and contemporary, folk, bluegrass, and country music. The sun is going down, the soup is gourmet, the wine is fine, the music is soothing, and you have a little pottery bowl filled with the hope that someone less fortunate might have enough eat in the days to come. Every time you pull that bowl out of your kitchen cabinet, you’ll be reminded of the good it represents.

To buy your tickets, please visit Tickets can also purchased at The Tryon Daily Bulletin’s office in downtown Tryon or at Thermal Belt Outreach office at 134 White Drive in Columbus.