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 Sunday, March 4, at the Legends Club.
And the person in charge of keeping all these different balls in the air is Empty Bowl Chair Susan Steinberg.
“We have a committee of about 12 people,” Steinberg previously said. “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 17th year, Steinberg said the first Empty Bowl in Augusta made about $5,000. Last year’s event made about $29,000. 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. There’s always a little something for everyone’s tastes. In the past, the event has featured sherry mushroom soup, chili, hot and sour soup (appropriately, for the Jewish Community Center, it’s made with chicken instead of pork) and sweet corn soup.
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. Desserts also will be there; all of the foods are donated by the CSRA’s best restaurants.
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. In the past, the event has had many items, including gift certificates and all kinds of artwork. A “take home now” price will be on the items, so people can snag something right away if they don’t want to risk losing it to another bidder.
Once they’re 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. Additional bowls may be purchased for $10 each.
Students also are invited each year to enter a design in the T-shirt contest. Out of about 400 entries, Ashley Dunn-Smith from Grovetown High School won for her design, featured here.
It’s just one more way that the AJCC and Golden Harvest are involving the public in their fight against hunger.
“What’s so neat about this, and I’ve always said this, is that it involves the entire community,” Steinberg has 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 2018
The Legends Club
Sunday, March 4
10:30 a.m.-2 p.m.
Adults: $20, advance; $25, door
Children 2-10: $5, advance; $7.50, door