SOWEGA Council on Aging’s Izzie Sadler, left, and Albany Arts Council’s Carol Hetzler promote their second annual Empty Bowls fundraiser, designed to help ease hunger in the community and feature local artists and restaurants. The event is scheduled Mon., Jan. 28, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Albany Civic Center.
ALBANY, Ga. — There are certainly larger fundraisers held here each year, but there is none with a more complete community feel than the Jan. 28 Empty Bowls outreach that benefits both the SOWEGA Council on Aging and the Albany Area Arts Council.
In its second year after a quick sellout in 2012, Empty Bowls brings disparate components of the community together in a unique event planned to shine a light on the plight of the world’s hungry as well as generate funds for the Council on Aging’s Meals on Wheels program and the Arts Council’s efforts to encourage, sponsor and support the arts and culture in the community.
“Empty Bowls is all about the community,” Arts Council Executive Director Carol Hetzler said. “You have two long-serving downtown nonprofits working together with local artists, local restaurants and local volunteers — and supported by individuals and civic organizations throughout the community — to provide a reminder of all the empty bowls throughout our community.
“Everyone involved has embraced the concept of giving to help others. It’s just a very positive thing.”
Hetzler brought the Empty Bowls concept with her to Albany from North Carolina, and she and Sadler, the Council on Aging’s development director, sprung the concept on the community for the first time last year. Their modest goal of selling 200 bowls (at $20 each) of soup was reached well before the day of the event.
“It went so well last year, we’re shooting to double participation this year,” Hetzler said. “We’ve got 400 tickets.”
Supporters buy an Empty Bowls bowl, each of which is created and specially designed by local artists, from the Arts Council or the Council on Aging. On the 28th, they will gather at the Albany Civic Center between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. and claim the bowl of their choice, which is theirs to keep. Once they have a bowl picked out, they’ll sit down to a lunch of hearty soup prepared and donated by some of the community’s best cooks.
Area artists in the Georgia Artist Guild of Albany and the Americus-Sumter County Arts Council are among those who designed, created and decorated bowls for the event. Clay Spot owner Anita Riggle, Kirby Gregory, George Carter and Scott Marini are Albany artists whose talents will be on display; while Keaton Wynn, Sam Hendley, John Lin and Sunni Zemblowsi are Americus-based participants.
Other artists volunteering their talents are Walter Hobbs and Patrick Schloss of Valdosta and Thad Brewer of Oakfield. Golden Cuisine became the event’s first business sponsor, supplying the materials for many of the bowls.
Supporter Erica Jackson of Albany said she loves the concept of Empty Bowls.
“I feel it’s an awesome event,” she said. “It reminds us of those who don’t have bowls or anything to fill them with. That alone inspires me to want to go out and do what I can to help fight hunger. The event also allows local artists to bring attention to their talents.
“Empty Bowls is a great way to bring awareness to hunger and give back to our community. I’m proud to be a participant.”
Once ticket-holders — there will be no sales on the day of the event, and supporters must have their tickets with them — have secured their artwork of choice, they will settle in and enjoy homemade soups provided by community partner restaurants and resterauteurs including Austin’s Firegrill, B.J. Fletcher, Elements, Lemongrass, Merry Acres and Stewbo’s Restaurant Group, Our Daily Bread, Terry Lee’s Olde World Sandwich Shoppe, the Meals on Wheels kitchen crew, the Corner Cafe, Albany Technical College Culinary Arts students, the Westover High School Culinary Arts program, Viet Pho, Southern Elegance Catering, Moe’s Southwest Grill, Pearly’s Famous Country Cooking and Red Lobster.
Live entertainment will be provided by local musician Cole Hankins.
With such a wide variety of soups available, supporters will have as tough a time deciding on which soup to enjoy as they will picking out a decorative bowl. But Terry Lee’s Cowboy soup will no doubt be a favorite.
“I got involved with this because the Council on Aging is such a worthwhile agency; they really helped my mother,” Lee said. “I believe they do a lot of good in the community, and I’m more than happy to help them out.
“In some benefits like this, you find out that a lot of the money goes to administration and other costs. The Empty Bowls money goes directly to the two agencies, where it should go.”
Just what you’d expect from such a community-specific benefit.
“This will be a very casual, a very cozy event,” Sadler said. “Mrs. (SOWEGA Council on Aging Executive Director Kay) Hind and I were talking about the fundraisers we have, and we agree that this is one of our favorites. It definitely takes the entire community to make it happen.
“All of the artwork and all of the food is donated, so we’ll split the proceeds from the sales and use them for our programs. Expenses are very limited; I believe of the $4,000 from last year’s Empty Bowls, we had expenses of only $140.”
Doubling available tickets and, more importantly, participation in Empty Bowls is a logical second step for the creative minds behind the fundraiser. As they speak — excitedly — about it, it’s not hard to see Hetzler’s and Sadler’s creative wheels turning.
“We’re taking things a step further this year,” Hetzler said. “There are beaucoodle ways we can continue to grow. And everyone benefits. The artists and restaurants get a level of awareness, the city and Civic Center get involved and since a lot of people are coming downtown — many who don’t usually come this way — I’m sure some of our downtown businesses may benefit.
“There aren’t many events where people from all walks of life — young, old, male female, business men and women, city employees — gather together around a table and just enjoy an experience like this. It truly is all about the community.”
For tickets or information about Empty Bowls, call the Arts Council at (229) 439-2787 or the Council on Aging at (229) 432-1124. Online, go to www.Albanyartscouncil.org or www.SOWEGAcoa.org.