Empty Bowls
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Thursday, April 27, 2017
By Austin Rese
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Hungry? For most us, this situation is easily satisfied by a trip to the refrigerator or a local restaurant-- with little concern for the inability to find food.  Yet, for some, this is a major fear that is often met without resolution.


The Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina is an organization whose goal is to provide a solution for those less fortunate. Every year a major fundraising event is held to support this important cause: Empty Bowls. As one might guess, it takes many hours of preparation and many volunteering hands to make this event a success.


In early February, I was asked by a member of American Airlines’ Do Crew if I would like to be a part of this event. The Winston-Salem based Do Crew is composed of employees within the American Airlines company who perform community service throughout the year. I have long been aware of their commitment to support the community and the good that they do. Thus, I jumped at the chance.


On a cold, windy winter afternoon we collected in American Airline’s break room to paint the white bisqueware bowls. The gathered lot was a spirited group. The chatter, chuckles, and cheer were contagious and I soon felt as if I was a member of this family. We painted for several hours. While some bowls soon became works of art, all were works of the heart. They were very important tokens of potential support which would be fired and displayed for purchase at the pending gala.


A representative of the Second Harvest Food Bank, Tomi Melson, was present. I asked her what this event meant to her. She shared with me the sincerity of this effort and its vital outreach. I had heard that this area of the country suffered greatly from insufficient food sources. Tomi indicated that such news was not a mere factoid, as 1 in every 4 children in the Piedmont of North Carolina do not know where their next meal is coming. Tomi shared that she was once the head of a large arts organization, but after recovering from an illness, she was unable to get a full-time job. So like many under-employed individuals in our region, she turned to local food pantries for assistance. She knew, first hand, why the efforts of this agency were important.


Yesterday, we gathered again. The Do Crew arrived to assist with the event. It was an amazing experience. With hundreds of decorated bowls assembled on islands of skirted tables, the ticket holders floated about, perusing the wares for the one that spoke the most to them. After taking their find to the wrapping station, they were treated to a selection of gourmet soups, salad, cornbread, and dessert---all made by noted chefs of local restaurants. In addition, a silent auction of local artists' work, a boutique of  t-shirts, cookies, and handmade gifts were all available for purchase. Even a potter from the community art school was busy demonstrating his talents for the crowd's enjoyment and amazement!


Within moments, a major line of supporters had formed. It was most obvious this was not just another society junket, but an event with a purpose. My assignment was to bus the tables. Over 1,500 tickets had been sold. The room’s capacity was 600. Doing the math, I realized we would need to turn the tables nearly 3 times in a period of less than 3 hours. I knew we would be hopping. That we were.


In a moment of pause, I asked a couple of fellow Do Crew members why they “did this?”…."Why were they there?”….


Although human nature might have it that it is an escape from the office, this was not the case.  Instead, it was a very interesting study in human compassion. In both situations, my question was met with an instant change of demeanor. The giggling eyes turned to a state of seriousness:

“I do this because I believe it is a very important cause.”

“I totally support the Blessings in a Backpack group. They slip food into the children’s backpacks at school so they will have something to eat over the weekend.”

“By doing this, it reminds me that people still care about others. ---I need that.”


I must agree. It was most rewarding to experience the kindheartedness of this event. Supporters and volunteers, alike, were allowed to be a part of something that is much bigger than themselves. We were able to help, in some small way, those who are often overlooked or forgotten.


None of us knows what tomorrow may hold. The success and security we often take for granted today can instantly change.--Tomi knows it.--Any of us could. The Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina is an angel to assist.


The crowd thinned. The event was nearly over. This 16th year was deemed a success: Over $83,000. was collected. A sigh of accomplishment seemed to fill the room.


Soon, the Do Crew gathered to say goodbye. We all moaned of tired legs and dirty hands. Yet, I believe we all knew we would see each other, again, at this same event next year.

This was A Moment in America.

Leave a comment:
Keith - This is a great cause - feeding the hungry, especially the children. Thanks to Valor for supporting the efforts of Second Harvest Food Bank.
Austin Rese - Thank you for such kind words of support. Your friendship is a blessing, indeed.
Judy - Austin, I have only know you for a short time but learned very quickly that you have a heart of gold and care deeply for others. It doesn't surprise me, that you would be a part of such a worthwhile charity. The bowls were truly works of art but paled in beauty to the people who worked so hard on this event!
God bless!