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Empty Bowls Warms Tummies on Winter Day
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Monday, January 16, 2023
 

STORY AND PHOTOS BY KAREN BOSSICK

St. Luke’s Wood River COO Almita Nunnelee ladled Ketchum Grill’s Spicy Lentil Sausage soup into beautiful handcrafted bowls. And ER Dr. Deb Robertson cleared tables as the popular Empty Bowls returned after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic.

About 200 people filtered into the Church of the Big Wood Sunday afternoon, deliberating over which of the handcrafted bowls to claim as their own and then deliberating again whether to fill them with Rasberrys El Paso Green Chile or CK’s Winter Vegetable Yellow Curry soups.

“We’re glad we can do this again,” said Bart Adrian, who was there with his wife Lois. “We had to content ourselves with Campbell’s soups the last two years.”

The event benefitted the Blaine County Charitable Fund this year after supporting The Hunger Coalition since its inception. Boulder Mountain Clayworks supplied 300 bowls, which had been made by members of the Wood River Women’s Foundation and other community groups, including elementary students.

The bowls seemed more beautiful than ever, ranging in size from bowls capable of holding a half-gallon of soup to those holding a cup.

“Some are beautiful; others’ beauty lies in the eye of the beholder,” said Diane Walker, who oversees Boulder Mountain Clayworks with Lauren Street. “Over the years, we learned how to check for unseen cracks that occur during the firing process by holding them up to the light. In the early days, we had a few that started leaking while people were eating from them!”

Keith and Paula Perry, who recently closed Perry’s Restaurant, took their place among the diners. They had supplied 20 dozen cookies for the event each year, but this was the first time they enjoyed it in person as they were always working at their own restaurant.

“It’s nice to see it from the other side,” said Paula Perry.

Five members of the Red Hot Society—Poo Wright-Pulliam, Judy Fox, Judy Wampler, Amy Kolb and Diane Walker—showed up as they do for all the Empty Bowls fundraisers. It was one of their first outings since the onset of COVID.

“The Red Hat group is first and foremost about women getting together and having fun,” said Wright-Pulliam. “It’s a great way to meet others, and we like to support fundraisers. They also have such good food at this event—and we love that we get a bowl to take home to add to our collection of bowls.”

And 7-year-old Aylee Ware labored over her choice of bowls, going back and forth as she picked one.

"We eat out of our Empty Bowls all the time and she broke her favorite one so this is an important decision for her," said her mother Jamie Truppi.

Almita Nunnelee said she helped decorate bowls for a similar event in Boise a few years ago, but that she was glad to spoon Spit Pea and Ham and Creamy Mushroom Wild Rice into bowls, as well.

“Making bowls is super fun. They don’t care what you do—you can be as creative as you want,” she said. “But this is fun, too—there are so many people willing to help.”

Dr. Deb Robertson noted that there were scads of Nordic skiers in the room. “Nordic skiers love a good bowl of soup,” she said. “This is a good cause, good company and great soup!”

The Hunger Coalition was happy to pass the torch this year to the Blaine County Charitable Fund to spread awareness about that organization and help raise funds for it as it tried to help people out with basic needs like paying utility bills, said Krista Felton, director of philanthropy for The Hunger Coalition.

Robin Leavitt said she had volunteered for the event when it benefitted The Hunger Coalition and was happy to do so on behalf of the Blaine County Charitable Fund: “I am impressed by the leadership of Mary Fauth and the board of directors. They deserve all the support we can muster.”

The Blaine County Charitable Fund was founded in 2020 to help valley residents pay rent and electric bills after they were laid off during the pandemic. It helped 1,200 individuals over the past three years. Its new beneficiaries include some of the Peruvian immigrants who were forced to leave their country due to such problems as inflation approaching 50 percent, meaning prices have increased four times for them compared with Americans’ 8 percent inflation.

The Wood River Valley is starting to see some price reductions in rentals and an uptick in rental options, Chamber Director Mike McKenna reported this week. But the Blaine County Charitable Fund was among several organizations that asked government leaders to establish temporary housing for 48 people who will lose temporary lodging in hotels because of an influx of tourists.

Donations of money are especially needed, said Mary Fauth, who heads up Blaine County Charitable Fund. The organization was buried in donations of bedding when it opened temporary shelter during the Christmas holidays—all of which it has set aside for future needs.

But it will probably need furniture as it puts people in unfurnished studio apartments, she said.

“I’m just so grateful that we’ve been named the beneficiary of the Empty Bowls,” she added. “It’s such a favorite part of the community.”

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