Empty Bowls helps put food on empty plates in Tacoma

Staff writerNovember 24, 2013 

Forty-five minutes before this year’s Empty Bowls fundraiser opened for business Saturday at Charles Wright Academy in Tacoma, close to 200 people were already waiting in line.

When the doors opened at 1 p.m., you could barely move for the crowds.

The attraction is partly generosity, said Retha Hayward, who’s been organizing the event for the past 16 years. All proceeds go to the Emergency Food Network, which provides food to hungry people throughout Pierce County.

“People want to give,” Hayward said. “They just don’t know how.”

But people also come to the event for the bargains, she said. They know they can get high-quality handmade bowls for low prices.

“I think I can safely say we have some of the finest quality we’ve ever had,” said Hayward, who owns White Dove Gallery in Lakewood and is in charge of procurement and quality control for the Empty Bowls event.

More than 1,600 bowls were on sale Saturday — the most ever, according to Hayward — and prices ranged from $10 for simply thrown ceramic bowls to $65 for a few large turned wood vessels donated by the South Puget Sound Woodturners.

An added bonus: Everybody who bought a bowl got to go next door and sample a selection of soups donated by nine local restaurants. (You didn’t have to use the bowl you bought.)

Jeff Klein, development director at the Emergency Food Network, said his organization expects to make about $25,000 from this year’s event.

That’s not even close to the proceeds of the organization’s largest fundraiser. The annual auction typically brings in several times that amount.

But Klein said, “We like this because it’s a community event that’s accessible to everyone, as opposed to the auction where you have to pay $75 for a ticket.”

Klein said people made 1.4 million visits to Pierce County food banks in 2012. “We’re on track to break that by 20,000 this year,” he said. “Unfortunately.”

Rob Carson: 253-597-8693

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