Empty Bowls fills stomachs, hearts

Fifth annual event to raise funds for local groups

After losing the use of his arm in a wreck in 2005, Jarrod Fawks faced a challenge last year in the university ceramics studio.

“The ceramics wheel only spins one way,” the 2015 alum said. “It was an obstacle, but by collaborating with (professor) Al Holen, I was able to learn a way to throw with one arm.”

Soon after he learned to use the pottery wheel, Fawks was teaching others for Empty Bowls Evansville.

“There are big smiles watching the bowls being made,” Fawks said. “Their eyes go big and they say, ‘Oh my god, I made that.’ It’s really rewarding.”

Empty Bowls is a national nonprofit movement which works  to end hunger across the United States. The university first hosted Empty Bowls Evansville five years ago under ceramics professor Alisa “Al” Holen.

At Empty Bowls Evansville, community members receive a bowl and soup for a $10 donation. This year’s event, fueled by both students and volunteers like Fawks, is set for 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at Sauced. The proceeds will go to mostly to ECHO Housing Inc., as well as Aurora Inc., United Caring Services and the House of Bread and Peace.

Last year, Fawks handed the proceeds check to ECHO Housing Inc., an organization that specifically helps veterans in need. As a veteran, he said he felt empowered giving the money to that kind of charity.

“After I lost the use of my arm, if I didn’t have friends and family, I could be in that situation (of needing help from ECHO),” Fawks said.

Because of his personal connection to last year’s charity, Fawks said there’s a difference between the art he makes for Empty Bowls and otherwise.

“I seem to put a little bit more energy and passion into Empty Bowls,” he said. “It’s helping people. I wish it could happen more often.”

As Fawks teaches others and learns from those experiences, his work with both ceramics and Empty Bowls has come full circle. One of his goals is to open a ceramics studio, and if he succeeds, Fawks said he’d definitely introduce the Empty Bowls event.

In the meantime, he volunteers every day at the university ceramics studio and will help with Evansville’s Empty Bowls event for as long as he’s available.

Holen said through her five years of organizing Empty Bowls Evansville, students like Fawks always want to come back and help after their first year.

“I think the reality is that none of us have a lot of money we can give, even if we believe in these charities,” she said. “If we can help and rally people to make bowls with skills we have and enjoy using, it’s an awesome cause at no cost.”

Restaurants providing soup include Sauced, Perfectly Fresh, Tom & Chee, Bokeh Lounge, Smitty’s/Gerst Haus, Deerhead Siddewalk Cafe, Pangea, Just Rennie’s and Mary and Martha’s Catering.

“Empty Bowls has opened a lot of doors in terms of getting USI involved with the community, and I love seeing that,” Holen said. “The students get to teach shortly after they learn, and that just embeds the knowledge like crazy. It’s really cool how their confidence grows.”

Holen said she hopes Empty Bowls Evansville grows and involves more schools in the coming years.

“This year, I hope we sell all the bowls and make an impact on the malnourished and undernourished in Evansville, and for students to have a really positive experience,” she said. “We’ve made the bowls, and we’ll sell the heck out of them.”