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Students throw to aid hungry neighbors

Calen Kirkpatrick, 17, throws a bowl at Northwestern High School April 12. His finished work will be filled with soup and sent home with diners during the annual Empty Bowls event Monday. The fundraiser, which has attracted more than 100 community members each year, supports the Rural Care & Share Food Shelf. (Maria Lockwood)

Hunger wears many faces in Douglas County.

"It goes from children to senior citizens, the whole gamut," said Ann Pellman, chairwoman of the Rural Care & Share Food Shelf, which serves residents of the Maple and South Shore school districts. "We see families with children who are struggling and senior citizens who don't have much of an income."

About 120 households per month receive food from Rural Care & Share, although that can jump to 150 at certain times of the year.

With a bowl of soup, community members can help feed these neighbors in need. The fifth annual Empty Bowls event takes place 5-7 p.m. Monday at Northwestern High School. For a freewill donation at the door, those attending will receive soup and the bowl it comes in.

Junior Calen Kirkpatrick has been throwing, glazing and firing as many bowls as he can to get ready for the event.

"I had to do most of them last year but he's been able to take the slack off," said art teacher Jeremiah Haynes. "I realized I was swamped and he volunteered to step up and throw the rest of the bowls."

Kirkpatrick had never thrown a bowl until last semester.

"This is my first year," said Kirkpatrick, 17.

He is what Haynes called a natural, and the junior has been spending class time pouring out a stream of product, about 50 bowls, for the event.

"I didn't know about ceramics hardly at all until this year and until I started throwing my own bowls and then I was like, this is actually fun because I can actually use them," Kirkpatrick said. "Mom can use the mugs I make. You can use it; I love that."

Another 50 bowls were decorated by community members during Northwestern Elementary Art Night last month. The Northwestern Elementary School PTA sponsored 50 bowls from the Pottery Burn in Duluth, and community members kicked in funds to up that number.

"My hope is that we will draw a larger crowd of people who would like to come and get the bowl that they decorated on art night," said art teacher Amy Mack, Empty Bowls founder.

Those who attend the soup supper can also get $1 off their admission to the Coffee House Jazz Concert at 7:30 p.m. at the school.

"Both the concert and the Empty Bowls event have benefited from the pairing," Mack said.

Pellman has attended the event in the past. She appreciated the presentation on rural hunger that members of the school's Honor Society give during the event.

"How important to address issues that families have to deal with," she said.

The well-rounded evening attracts about 100 diners and raises more than $1,000 each year, enough to pay for nearly a month's supply of food for the food shelf.

"As an educator it is my job to assist students in all aspects of development, whether it be intellectual or character based," Mack said. "This event benefits our student body, our school as a whole, the community of people who are willing to come out for the event, the food shelf, and it definitely benefits me to see that one spark can start a chain reaction of good in a world sorely lacking."

Matching funds that were once paired with the Empty Bowls event have dried up, Pellman said, and many of the organizations that support the Rural Care & Share Food Shelf are struggling.

The fact that they are always willing to support the food shelf, however, gives her faith that the funds will continue to come in.

Rural Care & Share Food Shelf, a ministry of 13 area churches, distributes food from 9-11 a.m. the third Saturday of the month at Peace Lutheran Church in Poplar and Our Savior's Lutheran Church in Iron River. A free breakfast is offered at the Iron River site during distribution. A free produce truck brings baked goods and vegetables to the sites at 9:30 a.m. on the last Thursday of the month.

To receive food, participants must bring a form of identification that includes their name and address. They can bring a piece of mail to show their address, as well.

For information or to volunteer, contact Peace Lutheran Church at (715) 364-2593, or Our Savior's Lutheran Church at (715) 372-8728.

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