Super bowls: Senior project students among creators for food bank fundraiser

Columbus North High School senior Mayra Garcia’s handmade bowls are among those donated to the upcoming Empty Bowls fundraiser.

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There exists a chance that the souvenir ceramic bowl that holds some diners’ unlimited soup or chili at Saturday’s 26th Annual Empty Bowls fundraiser also holds a good measure of Mayra Garcia’s artistic pride.

The Columbus North High School student is among a variety of local creatives who have shaped handmade bowls for the event that raises money for area food banks. Garcia’s work in donating 50 pieces to the cause is part of her senior project.

She made her pieces, featuring colors such as reds, greens, blues and purples, as part of a school ceramics class. She’s done pottery since her sophomore year. And she has tried to keep even her semi-substandard pieces that others may not especially want — for an understandable reason.

Columbus North High School student Mayra Garcia is shown in the process of making handmade bowls for the upcoming Empty Bowls fundraiser as part of her senior project.
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“I like to be able to show my progression” as an artist, said Garcia, who is donating bowls to the event for the third straight year. “I think there’s a big difference now.”

Empty Bowls, slated from 4 to 7 p.m. at Central Middle School, 725 Seventh St. in downtown Columbus, generates money for 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.

Volunteers make items such as soups, chilis, bread and sweets such as cookies for the meal. Ideally, organizers still 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.

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 Robert Pulley launched the event as a member of Columbus Peace Fellowship after hearing about a similar event from artist friends.

More students are becoming aware of the gathering.

As part of her senior project, Columbus East High School senior Ali Trueblood works on a handmade bowl for the upcoming Empty Bowls fundraiser.
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And Ali Trueblood has used her Columbus East High School senior project of bowl making for the event “as a way of relieving stress,” as she put it. Not that she has avoided every pitfall in the design and decor phase of her 17 total pieces.

“There were some things that I sometimes got frustrated with,” Trueblood said.

Yet, family members such as grandmother Lisa Kline already has purchased one of Trueblood’s bowls. Trueblood has enjoyed the process enough that she already has investigated other pottery creating options for this summer in places such as Nashville.

About the event

What: 26th Annual Empty Bowls soup fundraiser.

When: 4 to 7 p.m. Saturday.

Where: Central Middle School cafeteria, 725 Seventh St., Columbus.

Admission: $20 per person for adults; $10 for children 12 and younger. Tickets available at