High Altitude Society: Empty Bowls event supports Vail Valley Salvation Army | VailDaily.com

High Altitude Society: Empty Bowls event supports Vail Valley Salvation Army

Carolyn Pope
High Altitude Society

It's not exactly the soup kitchen you might envision. Recently, the Battle Mountain High School cafeteria was filled with locals and their children at the ninth Empty Bowls fundraiser for Salvation Army.

An empty bowl is an international symbol of hunger; think of that young child with the bowl held between their hands, gazing into the camera with large eyes and a look of longing for their tummies to be full. That's what the Salvation Army in the Vail Valley is all about; helping people who are facing some of life's most challenging problems, like feeding their families.

Empty Bowls is one of the most beloved and accessible fundraisers in the valley. Almost 300 people show up, $20 in their hand, and they all walk out with full stomachs. Several different yummy soups were served, along with bread, a drink and a dessert, provided by generous local businesses including Beaver Creek Mountain Dining, Saddleridge, Sweet Basil, Taste 5 Catering, Sonnenalp Resort, Splendido, Grouse Mountain Grill, Alpenrose, Heidi's Deli and Bakery, Avon Bakery, Columbine Bakery. Slifer, Smith and Frampton provided the water.

Each person also walks out with a handmade ceramic bowl to remind them, each time it is used, of others who may not have enough to eat on a daily basis. The event raised around $10,000, which is funneled directly into their food pantry. The event was sponsored by the Vail Board of Realtors.

"It's a wonderful community event that we deliberately keep affordable so locals can attend," Said Tsu Wolin-Brown, who runs the local extension of Salvation Army.

Creative local potters make the bowls each year, including Ann Loper, Craze Peacock Studio, Alpine Arts Center and Colorado Mountain College. Willow Murphy spearheaded a the "bowlathon" to crank out 170 bowls, hand thrown by only seven artists at CMC.

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Local Food Pantry

Salvation Army is a lean, mean, do-good machine that tends to fly under the radar. Only two full-time staff head the organization, Tsu Wolin-Brown and case worker Patricia Pierce.

The Vail Valley Salvation Army provides emergency services and strives to meet basic human needs in an effort to promote self-sufficiency. The organization supports individuals in the work force and their families, allowing them to continue to work and linking unemployed individuals with resources so that they are able to work and therefore be self-sufficient. They collaborate with local public safety and law enforcement by feeding rescue workers and victims with our canteen and managing shelters and by assisting with stranded motorists and traveler's aid.

"Our food pantry has approximately 500 households who come in monthly to augment what they are able to provide," Wolin-Brown said. "We receive rescue foods from grocery stores and we purchase the regular staples that we put in the food baskets every week from Food Bank of the Rockies, which gives us a huge bang for the buck, then we supplement with fresh and frozen meats and produce. A quarter of the budget pays for food, rent, emergency medication, utilities, etc. There's so much that we do."

With only two people minding the shop, the organization relies heavily on their volunteers, who perform tasks including running the community garden and greenhouse (Bare Roots Garden and Greenhouse), stocking the food pantry and unloading trucks of food when they arrive.

The Bare Roots community garden took root five years ago, as part of Healthy Communities Initiative of Eagle County, with the purpose of creating access to healthy food. Locals can pay $50 for the summer for a plot which includes drip irrigation and amended soil, and restaurants can purchase a larger plot for $200.

For more information on Salvation Army in Vail, visit their website at http://www.salvationarmyvail.org or call 970-748-0704.