12th Empty Bowls Headwaters provides handmade bowls and donated soup for a good cause

October 22, 2021   ·   0 Comments

By Rob Paul, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

For the 12th year in a row, Empty Bowls Headwaters ran a successful fundraiser in the name of supporting those in need and ensuring they have access to food.

The fundraiser at the Alton Legion is part of the global Empty Bowls initiative, whose mission is to raise money for food-related charities by providing those who donate with a handmade bowl—and in Empty Bowls Headwaters case, a soup from a local chef.

Potter Ann Randeraad started the program over a decade ago when she saw a need for a local Empty Bowls program, and it’s been growing ever since.

The fundraiser ran October 17 and was slightly different for the second year in a row due to the pandemic, but was a success all the same.

“It was a beautiful day which made it so nice, and we had a steady flow of people throughout the afternoon,” Randeraad said. “We don’t know the exact tally with how many people and how much was raised…yet, but there was a lot of traffic from the late morning into the afternoon. I think it was successful once again all due to people coming out to support us which is always fantastic.”

The pandemic forced Randeraad and the Empty Bowls Headwaters team to format the event differently, which provided challenges. But it wasn’t going to stop them from continuing the movement to feed the hungry.

“It did impact us a little bit in the fact that both last year and this year we made it a drive-thru takeout,” she said. “We did that last year because we were actually in lockdown and again this year because we had to plan it that way just in case we went into lockdown again. We were only able to have a small amount of people in the building at any time and even though people weren’t staying, they had to register because that’s the requirement with the Legion. Of course, we had to do extra cleaning, but it’s just something all businesses are having to do right now. It was all absolutely necessary and although people are used to it by now, it still has its challenges.

“We had a smaller number of volunteers this year, but I would say things still ran very smoothly. I felt it was a huge success still for sure. It made it go smoother in that the volunteers that we did have were really committed to the day and committed to the process. It made things run seamlessly.”

Losing the social part due to COVID could have been a drag, but Randeraad noticed many people using Empty Bowls not only to help those who need it most, but also to bond with their families over a good meal.

“Even though people couldn’t really socialize because it was just people from individual cars coming in…it was still nice for people to be able to do that because it was still something we could see clearly being done by families who would get their bowls of soup and take them home to have a meal together.”

With soup donations from Absolute Catering, Gourmandissimo, Lavender Blue, Mrs. Mitchell’s, the Busholme, and the Mad Hatter, the food component of the event always gets those donating excited.

“The soup donations went well, and they were all fantastic—I can attest to that because I tried each of them,” said Randeraad. “They were all such nice soups, not that I would expect anything less from the chefs we had participating. They were all well received by participants, and we, of course, always have our traditional squash soup and a variety of soup options with vegan and gluten options.”

As a potter who crafts bowls every year for the event, Randeraad always tries to provide a wide variety to allow those returning to the fundraiser to take home something new each year.

“As far as the number of bowls produced for the event, there were about 360 bowls made for it,” she said. “There were probably at least 150 bowls out at any one time for people to choose from which gave people a nice selection to choose from. Each year I actually make sure there are some bowls that are similar to bowls made in the past in case people want to add to their family of bowls, but by the same token I also always try to introduce something new that’s never been there before. This year I had what I call ‘doodle bowls’ and they’re bowls that have little drawings on them. Each year I always try to maintain what we’ve had since the beginning as well as add something new.”

The support from those in Caledon and surrounding areas continued to grow this year says Randeraad which showed through on social media and even more so in the food drive aspect of the event.

“Across the board, people are always very supportive of the event,” she said. “Obviously, they purchase a ticket to come out and get a bowl, but also they’re very supportive in that people ahead of time helped promote the event through things like social media. There was more sharing and more visibility on social media than there’s been in the past, that was fantastic. We also had a great response in the number of people who brought food out to donate to the food bank. So, we’re able to donate a couple hundred pounds of food to the Orangeville food bank. That was a really positive thing that came with the event, too.”

Now that the fundraiser is wrapped up, Randeraad and the Empty Bowls Headwaters volunteers plan to figure out which local food program they’ll donate the money raised to as well as reflect on what they could do differently next year.

“Our next step is tallying totals and cross-referencing things to do an analysis of where our successes were and what we might be able to do differently,” she said. “We were super happy with the people who donated the soups and the whole process in all fairness because it’s our second year doing it during COVID, it probably ran a little smoother having already had a run at doing it this way.

“So, going forward we’ll be tallying and deciding where the funds will go. I think that obviously over the years both the visibility for the program and the need for the program have grown and as a result of that community support has grown and it’s fantastic because the bottom line is there are people who have been supporting us from day one and come out every year to buy bowls and give them as gifts, which has been a way of extending the reach of both the message and the need for this event.”

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