Opelika-Auburn Empty Bowls Fundraiser Plans Special Activities for 12 Days of Giving

The Empty Bowls Project will kick off its 12 Days of Giving event Saturday, Dec. 11, from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. at the Opelika Recreation Center on Denson Drive in Opelika. A drawing will be held every day for a free handcrafted piece of pottery and bowls can be purchased for $10 to $20. With the purchase of a bowl, a ticket will be given for the soup event and silent auction in February. All proceeds will go to the Food Bank of East Alabama. Looking over a table of the bowls are Sherie Spain, left, director of the Opelika Pottery Department and founder of the local event, and Kitty Greene, publicity chair for the Empty Bowls project.

By Ann Cipperly 

While the Empty Bowls Project is currently holding pre-sales, starting on Saturday, Dec. 11, a variety of additional activities will be offered for the 12 Days of Giving at the Recreation Center on Denson Drive in Opelika. Every day, a drawing will be held for a free handcrafted piece of pottery, and special items will be showcased. Bowls can be purchased and will include a ticket for a free bowl of delicious soup and bread at the Empty Bowls main event on Feb. 12. All proceeds will be donated to the Food Bank of East Alabama. 

Bowls created by about 45 potters will be offered for $10 to $20. This year, new items are hand-painted bowls for children and microwave soup cozies made by the sewing ministry at Trinity United Methodist Church.

The late Ron Speedy made special pottery pieces related to Lake Martin which will be auctioned on Feb. 12, along with other unique art items and an elegant four-course dinner. Soup from restaurants and local cooks will be served indoors and outdoors under a tent.

The ninth annual Empty Bowls fundraiser for the food bank began when Sherie Spain, director of the pottery department at the Opelika Recreation Center, read about the event that started in 1990 as a class project in Michigan. The class made ceramic bowls to sell and served soup for a food drive. The idea caught on, and other Empty Bowls events were held across the country. 

“I contacted the Food Bank and they liked the idea,” Sherie said. “I thought it would be good to get both Opelika and Auburn pottery communities working together.” 

While the Rocky Brook Potters in Opelika and Dean Road Recreation Center Ceramics Studio in Auburn alternate hosting the event every other year, potters from both groups create bowls for each event. When the Opelika potters held the event two years ago, they raised $21,000 for the Food Bank of East Alabama. 

“I have always been interested in how to do pottery, so I took a few courses from Sherie,” said Kitty Greene, publicity chair for the Opelika Empty Bowls Project. “It has been a way for me to get involved in the community. I wanted to do something to help, and to me, the Food Bank is really special.” 

Anyone who buys a bowl in advance can bring their ticket and attend the Feb. 12 event for no additional cost. Everyone who buys a ticket receives a bowl they keep as a reminder of the less fortunate in the community and to remember, “no child deserves an empty bowl.” 

 “The Empty Bowls event allows us to select a lovely, hand-made bowl that serves a soup meal, but this small bowl represents much more than simply my meal,” said Martha Henk, executive director of the East Alabama Food Bank. “By acquiring food through local donations and the national food bank network, every dollar given to the food bank enables us to distribute the equivalent of seven meals to people in need. I love the strong concept of an empty bowl.

“The bowl from an Empty Bowls event sits on my desk at work. I see it every day. It serves as a concrete reminder that there are empty bowls in our community and that there is something specific I can do to fill another person’s bowl.” 

The bowls are for sale at the Opelika Recreation Center Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m.


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