Empty Bowls fundraiser set for for March 23

Photo by Shannon Malanoski Jim Bickel, president and CEO of Columbus Regional Health, was among volunteer serves at the 25th Annual Empty Bowls Saturday.

Call it a case of chili on maybe a not-as-chilly day.

The 26th Annual Empty Bowls soup and chili fundraiser, normally held in February in recent years, will be from 4 to 7 p.m. March 23 at Central Middle School, 725 Seventh St. in downtown Columbus.

Local pop-folk musical duo Dan and Linda Mustard, who have performed at a wide range of area events in recent years such as the Columbus Indiana Philharmonic’s Lobsterfest, will be the entertainment again.

Tickets, priced at $20 for all-you-can-eat soup or chili, bread, cookies and a drink, are available at classy.org/event/empty-bowls/e534694, and also at Mill Race Center, Viewpoint Books, and the Columbus Area Visitors Center. Handcrafted, artsy, take-home bowls and bake sale items are sold separately.

Organizers moved Empty Bowls to the later date to give space to other February fundraisers such as QMIX Radio’s Love Songs For Love Chapel Feb. 14, in which listeners pay money to benefit the food bank and Christian outreach in order to dedicate songs on the air to mates, spouses, friends, family and others.

They also just expanded the event from two hours to three hours in order to give more people a chance to attend.

The goal this year is $25,000. Last year’s gathering attracted about 340 people and generated $20,000, divided among the event’s six beneficiaries: Love Chapel, Turning Point Domestic Violence Services, the Salvation Army, the Community Center of Hope, Thrive Alliance and Horizon House.

Love Chapel’s pantry alone is currently serving a record of more than 1,200 households monthly. That number has risen steadily since the pandemic.

Columbus resident Judy Kiesow is chairing the fundraiser.

Ideally, organizers still ideally would love to attract as many as 500 people, which would sometimes happen years ago when the area event calendar was not quite as busy. More than 1,000 attended in 2011 when the event ran longer.

“My feeling is this: I think we’re going to be able to push the total just a little more,” said Richard Boyce, a member of the event’s organizing committee.

The fundraiser involves people buying volunteer-made soups and chilis in locally-produced, hand-crafted bowls for sale, plus breads, desserts and more while listening to live entertainment and brief messages about the need to support struggling families locally.

More than 15 corporate sponsors also made last year’s event possible. Organizers still are seeking additional sponsors, with support ranging from $150 donations to $1,000, for this year’s meal.

Volunteer cooks normally prepare about 40 gallons of soups or chili.

An auction of a range of gifts and gift baskets also supports the cause.

Some of the community’s most visible leaders pitched in last year as volunteers, and at least three are returning as servers this year: Columbus Mayor Mary Ferdon, Columbus Regional Health President and CEO Jim Bickel (who served chicken curry last year) and Jim Roberts, superintendent of Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. Each is expected to be dishing out selections made by people from their organizations or administration.

Local sculptor and potter Bob Pulley launched the event as a member of Columbus Peace Fellowship after hearing about a similar event from artist friends. He then watched people such as longtime volunteer Sarah Grey turn the idea into a reality. The former Columbus resident known for her social justice and outreach efforts served among organizers until 2019.

Seeking sponsors

Empty Bowls organizers still are seeking more sponsors. Information: Richard Boyce at [email protected].