Empty Bowls 2020


Bridget Doherty

Students at the all-night “bowl-a-thon”, 2019

Every year, one of the largest and most anticipated fundraisers that OPRF students partake in is the “Empty Bowls” project. Empty Bowls is a charity event organized by Wheel Throwing Club at OPRF. The event is focused on raising money for organizations whose mission is combating hunger. In previous years, Empty Bowls has raised over $10,000 to combat hunger in Oak Park and across the world. The club is working on ways to recreate this fundraiser, even without an in-person event.
Usually at Empty Bowls, guests pay a fee to enter, then get to pick out a bowl thrown by the members of the club and art students, get to eat a variety of soups donated by local restaurants, and take the bowl home.
Senior Luca Anderson is the president of Wheel Throwing Club and co-president of Empty Bowls. The annual event raises “awareness for hunger relief globally, nationally, and locally. All the proceeds go to support Global Alliance for Africa, Housing Forward, and Beyond Hunger,” says Anderson.
Global Alliance for Africa, based in Chicago, is a “Not-for-profit that partners with local not-for-profit agencies, faith-based organizations, and community groups in Sub-Saharan Africa. We design and develop unique and innovative programs that address locally identified needs for orphans, vulnerable children and youth, and women, at-risk households and communities in urban slums and remote rural areas”
Housing Forward is an organization in Maywood, that runs three homeless shelters in Oak Park, Forest Park, and Berwyn. The organization provides resources to individuals and families who are experiencing housing instability (housingforward.org).
Beyond Hunger, formerly known as the Oak Park-River Forest Food Pantry, is a hunger-relief service that operates throughout 13 zip codes across Cook County, including portions of Chicago and its near-west Suburbs. Their mission is “to provide the food, resources, knowledge, and skills people need to live healthy, active lives” (gobeyondhunger.org).
Empty Bowls does not only donate to charities: it engages with restaurants in a mutually beneficial way. Restaurants donate soup, which draws in customers to Empty Bowls, and also helps make connections with potential customers. The soup is served inside of handmade bowls made by Wheel Throwing Club.
Senior Joe Roucka, co-president of Empty Bowls, said “everyone coming around getting soup, is (kind of) the worst thing you could think of (during) COVID.” Empty Bowls has had to reimagine it’s main fundraiser, as well as all the activities that go along with it.
While Empty Bowls cannot sell soup this year, they have not forgotten about their restaurants. “This is usually a big opportunity for local restaurants to get customers so we are hoping that we can help them out as much as we can…. what we are trying to do is at least advertise the restaurants we buy soup from,” Roucka said. Roucka plans to advertise the restaurants on Empty Bowls’ website.
Another challenge is the process of selling the bowls. This year, Empty Bowls hopes that they can sell the bowls online.“It’s gonna be a website that we make… where you pick the bowls, add to cart, buy, and then we will either deliver it or we will think of something where you can pick it up from the school,” Roucka said.
Simply creating the bowls has also been a challenge. Normally, Wheel Throwing Club would use the equipment inside of the school to create the handmade bowls that would be sold at Empty Bowls, but this year nobody is allowed into the school.
“We can’t use the wheels at the school to make things so students are posting videos on how to do stuff at home and how to hand build things,” Roucka said.
Bridget Doherty, the sponsor of Wheel Throwing Club who has worked on Empty Bowls for over 14 years, said she is excited about trying the new online model. “There are so many components to this year’s Empty Bowls that we never did in-person. I’m excited to have this event in a way we’ve never done it before, online,” Doherty said.
Despite all these challenges, the Empty Bowls team is dedicated to making sure that the community event lives up to the reputation it has garnered in previous years. “Empty Bowls brings our community together. We come together for one night, share a meal, and a common purpose: to make our community stronger, better, and support each other.” Doherty said
To get involved with Empty Bowls or join Wheel Throwing Club, which meets Wednesdays at 3:30 pm, join their Google Classroom using code: gv5bruq