May 20, 2014. For the first time ever, Feeding Avery Families, Inc. (FAF) hosted “Empty Bowls for Avery” on Saturday, May 17 to fight the war on Hunger in Avery County. After months of preparation by dozens of volunteers, local residents were treated to a colorful display of 202 handmade pottery bowls created by students, professionals and seniors from age 14-91.
This premiere event, the largest food drive in Avery County’s history, brought in more than $4,500 in just a few short hours. Everyone who came to Mt. Calvary Baptist Church that afternoon had the opportunity to choose a beautifully handcrafted bowl for whatever donation they wished to make.
Donations ranged from a child’s heartwarming 86 cents to checks for $100 or more. With chilly temperatures outside, most of them stayed to enjoy a bowl or two of hot homemade soup, rolls and dessert. Throughout the afternoon, there were 37 different soups, a dozen or more desserts to choose from and more than 400 homemade rolls, all donated by volunteers.
This event was organized by Lynn Von Nessen who tirelessly recruited and organized dozens of volunteers to make Avery County’s first annual Empty Bowls event a great success.
Lynn, a volunteer at FAF, started this project in the fall of 2013 and one of the first steps was to find people who were willing to make pottery bowls. With the Avery Arts Council no longer in operation, she started contacting potters directly. One of those potters was Patti Connor-Green who was already volunteering at Feeding Avery Families. Hoping to get high school students involved, Lynn and Patti went to Avery High School to meet with Mickey Banner, the art teacher.
“Unfortunately, there was no pottery program at the school and Mickey said he was not a potter,” Von Nessen said. “But, Patti agreed to teach the students. Maggie Black, another area professional, came on board and worked with Patti to obtain supplies and glazes at cost. We were off and running!”
In addition to bowls made by 92 Avery High School students and their teacher, Mickey Banner, other bowls were donated by Patti Connor-Green, Maggie Black, Becki Henderson Gow, Cindy Pacileo, Andrew Stephenson, Tim Turner, The Art Cellar, Tracey Conway, Charlotte Wilson, Lois Carter, Jennifer Franz, Barbara Aycock, Jennie Cornett, Walter Pope, Loretta Nelson, Debbie Church, Kate MacCrae and Yvonne Maskus.
Fighting Hunger in Avery County
Feeding Avery Families, Inc. is a vital nonprofit organization that provides more than 60 percent of the food assistance in Avery County. While there are some prosperous regions in our state, North Carolina ranks fifth in the nation in overall poverty. The childhood food insecurity rate in Avery County alone is 29.9 percent.
That means nearly 1 child out of three doesn’t know where their next meal is coming from. For many school-age children, the only meal they can count on is what they get at school. Weekends might mean very little to eat. Summers are even worse.
With monetary donations, FAF purchases more food from the MANNA food bank than any other agency in western North Carolina. Food donations are also collected locally from grocery stores, farms, churches and individuals enabled FAF to distribute food to more than 1,000 individuals every month.
Even with the outpouring of food donations, it takes a minimum of $5,000 per month to meet the need, which has increased 316 percent since 2005 and is still growing. All of the food donations and financial support go directly to Avery County families who still need help after exhausting all other available resources.
Empty Bowls is a project of the Imagine/Render group, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization located in Burnsville and has helped raise tens of millions of dollars for anti-hunger organizations like FAF nationwide.
Feeding Avery Families, Inc. is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that provides supplemental food support to the poor of Avery County by any means available.
How Much Can Make a Difference?
A little boy approached the table showcasing all of the handmade bowls that were left. As his eyes swept over the colorful display, a special bowl caught his eye and he picked it up. Then, he dug deep into his pockets and produced a fistful of coins.
A volunteer opened the donation box for him and he dropped in all of his money, 86 cents to be exact, on top of several $20 bills and a few checks. His donation may have been the smallest, but his heart was probably the biggest of all.