5th Annual Empty Bowls for Avery to be held Saturday at Linville Land Harbor Recreation Center, Benefits Go Toward Feeding Avery Families

Published Tuesday, August 21, 2018 at 12:34 pm

By Tim Gardner 

From 11:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. this Saturday, August 25, people from across the High Country can go to the Linville Land Harbor Recreation Center, choose a unique locally handmade pottery bowl to keep and enjoy homemade soup, bread and dessert for whatever donation they wish to make. The event also will feature a Silent Auction that includes a wide selection of restaurant gift certificates and related items donated by local businesses.

All proceeds will benefit a most worthwhile and needy cause–Feeding Avery Families, a 501(c)3 non-profit that provides food support to families in need in Avery County.

Four years ago, Land Harbor summer resident Lynn Von Nessen, who grew up in Washington, DC and lives in Altoona, FL, realized the need for such an event during a conversation with another Floridian. When Von Nessen revealed that she worked with the Feeding Avery Families food pantry, the visitor was stunned.

“When I would tell Floridians coming to visit that I worked with a food pantry, they would always stop and ask, ‘Wait, you work for a food pantry? There are people who go hungry here?” Von Nessen said. “That’s when I knew that not only should I be working to help fix the hunger issue in Avery County, but I should also be raising awareness that many people in Avery don’t have enough to eat.”

According to Von Nessen, most people have little, or no idea, how severe poverty and hunger are in Avery County and the High Country.

“1 out of every 3 children in Avery County doesn’t know if they are going to have food,” Von Nessen said. “Most are being fed by programs through the county where the school provides food for them.”

With this horrifying statistic in mind, the idea for the Empty Bowls for Avery was founded and has since been coordinated by Von Nessen.

“When people come and see all of these empty bowls at our event, I want them to be reminded of the poverty and hunger that is so prominent in our community,” she stated. “There are many children with empty bowls in Avery County.”

Von Nessen continued: “Every cent donated counts. People attending can give us whatever they want and feel led to give. We’ve had people donate $100 and we’ve had children give us 22 cents. We are grateful for every amount received, and all of it helps.”

The bowls offered at Empty Bowls for Avery are made by local high school students from Avery High School and senior citizens from the Newland Senior Center, all of whom are taught by Patti Connor-Greene the fine and specialized art of pottery making. There are also bowls made in Boone, Little Switzerland, Asheville, West Jefferson and various other places donated for the event.

“There’s a funny story about that,” Von Nessen told. “People come by and tell those of us working the event that they want the most professionally-made or custom bowl that we have. But then they wind up picking one of the amateur ones to take home because that’s what they like best. However, all of the bowls are exceptionally well-crafted and custom done.”

The Empty Bowls for Avery event has grown dramatically since its inception as Von Nessen is proud to share.

“The event just keeps getting bigger and better each year,” she said. “The first year the event took place, it was held at the Mount Cavalry Baptist Church in Banner Elk and it was more of a neighborhood-type happening with locals showing up and giving generously. We got as many church ladies as we could to cook the food for that first event and there was no silent auction then. We still have the soups and related food items cooked by local church people and we also get help tremendous help with them from Kay’s Kitchen in Newland.”

The first Empty Bowls for Avery event in 2014 raised approximately $4,300, which truly drew attention to the generousity of the Avery Country community. In 2015, the event again took place at Mount Cavalry Baptist as well, but a silent auction was added. More than $6,000 was raised that year. The Empty Bowls for Avery moved to the Linville Land Harbor Recreation Center the following year (2016), which provided more space for the various activities that the event offers. And $10,300 was raised then. And we received more than $26,000 in 2017.

“The Land Harbor officials have been so kind to allow us to use their facility,” Nessen said. “It’s so open, so we can have the silent auction in the middle of everything. It’s worked out really well.”

Empty Bowls for Avery also has undergone a lot of changes throughout its four years of presence in the High Country, but its common element—its supporters—have remained the same.

“The basic feel of the event is the same as the first one we ever had. People are hanging out and enjoying each other’s company,” Von Nessen added. “People love being there because it’s so uplifting, and there is such a variety of people there, from teens to elders. They don’t just come, eat and then leave at this event. Everyone comes and visits with each other and enjoys great conversation.

“It takes a lot of hard work to put the event on, but it’s also fun to organize it. But I’m happy to see it continue to be so successful, and hopefully it will keep getting bigger and keep raising more money than the previous year.”

Anyone interested in volunteering to help with this most worthy fundraiser is urged to do so and may contact Feeding Avery Families by phone at: (828) 783-5806 or through US Mail by writing: PO Box 1075, Banner Elk, NC 28604.



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