The Empty Bowls bread, soup, and bowl luncheon held by Clay Works! in the Bitterroot in November raised $5,466 for local hunger needs.
Event coordinators Robin Ireland and Kim Milstead said the event was a learning experience.
“We sold all 200 tickets and then, since we had extra bowls, we let 12 more people in,” Milstead said. “Then we had to turn people away because all the bowls and soup were gone - it felt terrible turning people away. Everyone was in such good spirits and excited. They seemed to enjoy having lunch with family and friends.”
Milstead said the majority of the community came for lunch during the first hour of the event, so it was crowded.
“We'll fix that problem easily next year,” she said. “We heard comments like ‘This is the best fundraising event we have ever attended,’ so that felt good.”
The silent auction portion of the luncheon went so well that organizers even sold the decorative vases and apple bowls.
Ireland said she was surprised to see the great turnout because of the number of other community events held the same day.
“It was heartwarming to know that people in our community recognize the food insecurity problem in the Bitterroot and were eager to support this program,” she said. “I also want to thank everyone who helped make this a big success. Thank you to members of Clay Works! who made most of the beautiful bowls and set up for the event, the local restaurants and bakeries who supplied the soup and bread, the Knights of Columbus who made soup and ran the kitchen for us, and Town Pump for the generous grant money we needed for startup costs.”
Empty Bowl organizers divided the funds three ways – 40 percent to Community Meals, 40 percent to Nutrition Classes, and 20 percent seed money for next year’s Empty Bowl event.
Free Community Meals, held at churches in Hamilton five nights a week Labor Day through Memorial Day, received $2,180. The Montana State University's Extension’s educational arm of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program received $2,180 in the form of incentives for the adults and children who will be taking classes taught by nutrition expert Rachel Ariaz throughout 2018. Half of the students must be SNAP qualified to take the classes, which are offered at all the Ravalli County schools as well as at SAFE, and Bitterroot Youth Homes.
Empty Bowls will do the shopping for SNAP Education since they are not allowed to take monetary donations.
“We want to thank the community for the overwhelming support, generosity and enthusiasm in helping us feed and educate the hungry in our valley,” Ireland said.
Donations to the Empty Bowls event can be made at any time by designating Empty Bowls and mailing checks to Bitter Root RC&D, 1709 No. First St. in Hamilton.