On any given day, there are a number of fundraisers going on around the Augusta area, but none of these events involves the community to the extent that Empty Bowl does.
From students and teachers to restaurants and caterers, from local businesses and artisans to volunteers, celebrity servers and diners, all participate in some form or fashion in Empty Bowl, coming up this Sunday at the Legends Club.
“We have a committee of about 12 people,” Steinberg admitted. “We have someone in charge of volunteers, we have someone in charge of the bowl room. Actually, there are three art teachers on the committee and they took over the T-shirts and the bowls. Then we have one person on the committee who basically is the kitchen coordinator the day of the event, but she is also the person who delivered all the clay to the schools and will be picking up all the bowls and giving the kids their comp tickets. And she’ll also be folding 240 T-shirts next week. And then we have someone on the committee who does publicity, and then I pretty much handle the sponsors.”
It is a massive undertaking that results in one of the most anticipated events of the year. Now in its 16th year, Steinberg said the first Empty Bowl in Augusta made about $5,000. Last year’s event made approximately $27,000. The proceeds from the event are split equally between the Augusta Jewish Community Center and the Golden Harvest Food Bank.
There are many reasons for the event’s popularity. One is, of course, the food. Empty Bowl, whose mission and slogan is “Ending Hunger Together,” places the focus on soups. From enduring favorites like Silver Palm Catering’s sherry mushroom soup to chili from the new Culver’s in Grovetown, there’s a little something for everyone.
“Curry Hut is donating two soups,” Steinberg said. “They’re donating their hot and sour soup, which is totally different from the Chinese hot and sour, and then sweet corn soup. Wing Express, across from Surrey Center, is donating their hot and sour soup. It’s made with chicken, which is really good for us because we don’t do anything with pork.”
And it’s not all soup. The kid-friendly station (which, let’s be honest, the kids have to “share” with the adults) has hot dogs, mac and cheese, coleslaw and banana pudding, much of that courtesy of Wifesaver. Desserts for the adults will be provided by Sugarbakers of Augusta, a departure from Empty Bowl tradition.
“Jackie M.’s was our dessert station sponsor, and she would come in and bring desserts and serve them until they were gone,” Steinberg explained. “Well, because her building is being sold, she couldn’t commit this year. She said she would do a dessert, but then this woman from Custom Cakes at Sugarbakers called and she’s basically doing what Jackie M. did. What she’s bringing sounds wonderful.”
Food is one reason that Empty Bowl has always been such a popular event, but the massive silent auction is another. Table after table will be lined with items for diners to bid on and, while the donations are still coming in, Steinberg said there are some exquisite finds.
“Well, we have everything from wonderful gift certificates to some artwork. One of the pieces is a signed Chagall lithograph,” she said. “We’re still collecting a lot of it, but we have numerous handmade ceramic bowls that Ceramic Artists of the South East (CASE) donated. Tire City Potters, five potters and Shishir Chokshi, are donating bowls for the bowl room, but then they’re also donating pieces for the silent auction. We have a big tool set, which a man will probably love, and we also have a certificate for decorating from Design Images and Gifts. They also donated a bottle that I think is very unique.”
Once done eating and shopping, participants get to pick out their bowl from the bowl room. Meant to symbolism the struggle with hunger that many face, these bowls are made by students from about 30 schools in the area. Students were also invited to enter a design in the T-shirt contest. Out of the approximately 500 entries, Chris Ali from Butler High School won for his designed featured here.
“What’s so neat about this, and I’ve always said this, is that it involves the entire community,” Steinberg said. “The students at the schools do the T-shirts and bowls, and the teachers also get involved. Then you have all the businesses that get involved and we have community volunteers and restaurants and caterers. And it’s so popular with the public, and I think it’s partially because of the food. I think people know this is for a very worth cause. A lot of people support Golden Harvest and support the Jewish Community Center.”
Empty Bowl 2017
The Legends Club
Sunday, March 5
10:30 a.m.-2 p.m.
Adults: $20, advance; $25, door
Children 2-10: $5, advance; $7.50, door