EDWARDS — There are two tough choices to be made at the Empty Bowls event — which handmade bowl to take home and then which soup to eat for lunch. To be certain, attending the annual event isn’t a hard decision. The lunch raises much-needed funds for the Vail Valley Salvation Army. The sixth annual Empty Bowls took place at Battle Mountain High School in Edwards on Tuesday.
A line formed outside the school’s cafeteria entrance long before the 11:30 a.m. start time.
“Hopefully we’ll have 400 people,” said Tsu Wolin-Brown, director of the Vail Valley Salvation Army. “That’s what we target for every year.”
People of all ages attend this popular event in which everything is donated — from the bowls that local potters make in the months leading up to Empty Bowls to the fresh bread and tasty soup made by chefs from Eagle County restaurants. There’s even dessert — mini cheesecake, carrot cake and chocolate mousse tortes donated by Alpenrose Bakery.
This year, local emergency service workers, including a handful of firefighters and Eagle County Sheriff Joe Hoy, ladled out nine varieties of soup. Each restaurant donates at least 20 gallons of soup, Wolin-Brown said. The options ranged from classic, like tomato basil from Sweet Basil and lentil bean and sausage from Ti Amo, to the more creative offerings, like coriander-scented carrot soup from Grouse Mountain Grill, parsnip with bacon, Brussels sprouts and calabrian peppers from Splendido, and tomatillo with baby squash, heirloom potatoes and masa dumplings from Maya at The Westin in Avon.
‘HUNGER IN OUR COMMUNITY’
The event raises around $15,000 each year for the Salvation Army, but local understanding about the Salvation Army and the hungry people the organization helps to feed is a key component as well.
“It brings awareness to people about how much hunger there is in our community,” Wolin-Brown said. “There’s huge PR value as well. One of the people here is doing a food drive at his church for us on Saturday.”
While the event draws many of the same volunteers year after year, there were plenty of new faces at Tuesday’s lunch as well.
Anne Anderson, who was busy helping at the silent auction table, just moved to town from Southern California last month. After meeting Wolin-Brown, she decided to volunteer, she said.
“It’s a very unique way to raise funds to build awareness of the needs of the local residents and community,” she said.
Two 9-year-old girls — Gabrielle Leonardo and Lily Marion — each donning the Salvation Army’s signature red aprons, took a break from clearing people’s trays to pick out their own bowls from the table near the entrance to the event.
It was Leonardo’s second year volunteering. She enjoyed helping so much last year that she wanted to come again, she said.
“I came with my aunt last year and this year she said I could invite a friend along,” Leonardo said, smiling at Marion.
Local resident Diana Mathias came up with the idea for Empty Bowls after seeing a similar fundraiser take place in Taos, New Mexico, for its local food bank. She loved the sense of community surrounding the event and brought the idea to Eagle County.
Stephany Marreel, the director of gift planning for the Salvation Army’s divisional headquarters in Denver, came up for the event. It was her second time attending, she said.
“This event is unique,” she said. “I had an inquiry about it from people in Phoenix recently. It’s a growing trend, I think. It really draws the public in.
“People get to fill an empty bowl and know that we fill empty bowls on a daily basis for people in need,” she said.
That’s a choice the Salvation Army doesn’t take lightly.
High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at email@example.com, 970-748-2984 or @caramieschnell.