ALBANY — What better way to celebrate the opening of the new SOWEGA Council on Aging headquarters than with a beloved community event?
Empty Bowls, set for Jan. 27, will be the first event hosted at the new premises at 335 W. Society Ave.
“We’re very excited about our new location, and this is a great way to be able to showcase it to the community,” said Izzie Sadler, developmental director for the SOWEGA Council on Aging.
“Our executive director, Kay Hind, has worked very hard to make all of this happen,” Sadler added.
Now in its third year, Empty Bowls is a collaboration between the Albany Area Arts Council and the SOWEGA Council on Aging to create awareness of world hunger and raise 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.
“I’m the arts, she’s the food,” said Albany Area Arts Council Executive Director Carol Hetzler, referring to Sadler.
“It’s a perfect partnership, because Empty Bowls is all about the community,” Hetzler noted. “You have two long-serving downtown nonprofits working together with local artists, local restaurants and local volunteers to provide a reminder of all the empty bowls throughout our community.”
“This event really brings people from all walks of life together,” Sadler said. “There aren’t many events where everyone — 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.
“And it’s not about raising money — our goal is simply to make people aware of this pressing need.”
According to Sadler, the Meals on Wheels program helps provide food for for the elderly and disabled shut-ins in 14 Southwest Georgia counties five days a week, 250 days a year, with over 500 volunteers involved to help make this happen.
“This program is a lifesaver for some of the homebound who are delivered meals each weekday,” Sadler said. “For many of them, it’s their only meal.
“Hunger is everywhere, and there are those in our community who suffer because they are not able to leave their home and get what they need. I think that sometimes that fact gets overlooked by a lot of people. It’s a hidden problem.”
“This is more than just a fundraiser and more than just a soup lunch,” Hetzler said. “The bowls are symbolic of the many empty bowls that face the hungry throughout our community. We hope that when people look at their bowls they’ll remember the empty bowls throughout our region and do something to help with the fight against hunger.”
Sadler agreed. “These bowls can help serve as a reminder — someone may see it in their home and think, ‘I should volunteer.’ “
The concept of Empty Bowls is simple: Area artists have created 400 ceramic bowls, which participants may buy for a $20 donation that will be split between the Arts Council and the Council on Aging.
With their ticket, supporters will be allowed to keep the bowl of their choice and will receive a fresh, hot soup lunch provided by a number of local merchants.
“We had such a wonderful response from the community each year,” Hetzler said. “This year, we’ve had people calling us, asking how they can contribute.”
“It’s a unique event because people have an opportunity to help two local organizations and they get to take home a one-of-a-kind piece of art from local artists,” Sadler said. “Lunch, art, and a great time for just $20 — it’s a good deal.”
Bowls are first-come, first-served, so to make sure you get your choice of bowl, it’s best to arrive early.
“We had people just waiting in line to get in last year,” said Hetzler. “I’m sure it will be like that again.”
Area artists from Southwest Georgia who have created bowls for the event include Scott Marini, Kirby Gregory, Cindy Gravois, Keaton Wynn, Sam Hendley, Sunni Zemblowski, Diana Mead, Jim Mitchell, Sarah Hamman, Kelly McGuire and Walter Hobbs. The Clay Spot in Albany is also donating 50 bowls.
“The work these artists do is so important to Empty Bowls,” Hetzler said. “To thank them, we’re going to showcase their work at an exhibition at the Arts Council Building (the Carnegie Library at 215 N. Jackson St.) Jan. 27-Feb. 27. They will keep 100 percent of all sales they make during the exhibit.”
A wide variety of local restaurants, schools and caterers are contributing to Empty Bowls by providing delicious soups for attendees. Participators include Austin’s Firegrill and Oyster Bar, Sonny’s BBQ, Terry Lee’s Olde World Sandwich Shoppe, Cookie Shoppe, Wildflour Café, Pearly’s Famous Country Cooking, Red Lobster, Hilton Garden Inn Restaurant, Our Daily Bread, Albany Technical College Culinary Program, Westover High School Culinary Program, Lemongrass Thai, Moe’s Southwest Grill, Kaye Blaylock, Merry Acres, Doublegate Country Club, Meals on Wheels and BJ’s Country Buffet.
“This year, we have had people coming to us, asking if they can participate,” said Sadler. “It’s really a great way for local restaurants to showcase their goods and hopefully drum up new business.
“This event is really a win-win for everyone involved. We are able to raise awareness and funds for a dire need, and artists and contributors get exposure.”
Tickets for Empty Bowls may be purchased at the Albany Area Arts Council or online at www.albanyartscouncil.org. For more information, contact Hetzler at (229) 439-2787 or Sadler at (229) 432-1124.