By SUE SUCHYTA
DEARBORN – The annual Dearborn Public Schools Empty Bowls fundraiser to help combat food insecurity filled Park Place banquet center with student art and patron generosity Nov. 14.
Retired art resource teacher Wendy Sample said the service-learning project is important because it instills in students the importance of giving back to the community.
She said the proceeds will be donated to Gleaners Community Food Bank and Blessings in a Backpack, which helps provide weekend food for children from households with food insecurity.
“Gleaners keeps the money in the Wayne County area and Blessings in a Backpack services many of our schools so kids can take food home on the weekends,” Sample said.
She said the children are proud of the art that they create, as well.
Samples said Empty Bowls events, which occur across the country, were begun by 1966 Edsel Ford High School graduate John Hartom in November 1990 when he was a teacher at Lahser High School in Bloomfield Hills.
“Some kids came to him and said, ‘We are having a hard time raising money to buy all the things that we need for our Thanksgiving baskets,’ so he challenged his clay classes to make bowls and then he invited staff to come for a luncheon of soup and bread,” she said. “At the end of the meal one of the teachers said ‘John, I love this bowl,’ and he said, ‘Take it with you to remind you of how many people go hungry.’”
Samples said Empty Bowls events occur in all 50 states and at least 22 countries around the world.
DPS art teacher Susan Briggs said she was thrilled by the strong attendance.
“The turnout’s just wonderful,” she said. “The bowls are beautiful and a lot of generous people donated to our tin can raffle.”
Briggs said the student artists are proud to show their work to their parents.
“They go right to their table with their school and find their bowl,” she said.
Art resource teacher Sunshine Durant said the best part of the project is the children knowing that they are helping those in need.
She said the parents of younger children have the option of buying their child’s bowl before the event if the student doesn’t want to part with it.
Durant said the holiday bowls made by the high school level artists are among her favorite creations, as are the cards they make to go with them.
“It’s great to see the parents here and the community come out every single year,” she said.
Durant said for the students to be able to take the raw material and make something that is feasible and they can hold that isn’t a drawing, that is 3-D art, is important because they are learning how to work in clay, to present it to the public and how to give it away as well.
“It’s really hard for these kids to give something that they made away,” she said. “So, I think it’s a really good learning experience.”
Durant said Rovin Ceramics donated 300 pounds of clay and Motawi Tileworks donated the tile.
“I think this should keep going, and I am really glad that the community came out,” she said. “I like the support of the community.”
City Councilmember Leslie Herrick said she loves the Empty Bowls event.
“It’s a wonderful way to remind people of the things we have, the simple pleasure of having a meal with friends and colleagues, and to teach our children the lesson of being appreciative of what we have and to give to others when we can,” she said. “So, raising the funds is very meaningful to teach children about food insecurity.”
Herrick said it is important for students to realize that not everyone is lucky enough to experience the abundance they have.
“This is a really nice way for the art community to teach that lesson,” she said. “I am grateful for our teachers to do this year after year, because I know it is a lot of work and it is still early in the school year.”
She said she enjoys seeing the student creativity on display each year.
Briggs said Park Place has been generous in hosting the Empty Bowls event for years by providing the setup, soup and staff.
“They are just the best,” she said. “All of it is donated – they make it possible.”