Filling empty bowls to combat hunger in Laurel

Drew Oliver, 18, and other students in Lindsey Domer's Laurel High ceramics class created 200 bowls for a fundraiser to benefit FISH of Laurel.
Drew Oliver, 18, and other students in Lindsey Domer's Laurel High ceramics class created 200 bowls for a fundraiser to benefit FISH of Laurel. (Staff photo by Sarah Pastrana, Patuxent Publishing)

An empty bowl can hold anything, but too often, for those who are hungry, it remains empty.

That's what Rebecca Adams, a special education biology teacher at Laurel High, said she hopes participants will remember as they leave the Empty Bowls dinner at the school Friday, April 20. The dinner will benefit FISH of Laurel, a local food pantry and meal kitchen.


As a reminder of those who are hungry, people at the dinner will be given their own empty bowl, each made by the Laurel High ceramics classes.

About 60 art students made close to 200 bowls in class and after school over the course of a month said Laurel High School art teacher Lindsey Domer. The bowls were fun to do, Domer said, even when students put undue pressure on themselves to make each as perfect as possible.


"They'd tease each other, like 'you have to fix that, it has to look better since it's for a good cause. It can't look like that,' " Domer said. "They enjoyed themselves, and they knew they were doing a good thing."

Her students agreed with her. Drew Oliver, 18, said the bowls were difficult to make because of the care put into the process.

"We were trying to make the bowls so perfectly," said Oliver, a senior. "We didn't want to make bad-looking bowls, so we spent so much time on it."

Oliver made about 10 bowls, she said, and Naedjie Charles, 18, made three, in part because the bowls had to be "just right."

"I'm a perfectionist," said Charles, a senior. "I spent so much time on each bowl because I want somebody to really like it, maybe make a donation so the money can go to the organization. There's no point in making a bad bowl if no one's going to appreciate it."

By Tuesday, April 17, students in one of Domer's ceramics classes had moved on to a group project making board games. Some molded chess pieces. Others worked on a puzzle.

Charles was carving lines into a four-player mancala board, and a few others were starting work on teapots. For Oliver, it was exciting to use the different techniques learned in class making bowls for the event, she said.

Adams said that combination of learning and helping was a large component of the event.

"It's about trying to combine the curriculum with service learning," she said. "This offers them a chance to use the skills they're learning in art and doing something for the community at the same time."

A school-wide event

The Empty Bowls fundraiser is a school-wide affair for Laurel High. Students in the food and nutrition classes are baking cupcakes for dessert, and the drama department is distributing free tickets for the school's performance of "Dracula" the same night. Planning for the dinner began in February, Adams said, and she's still trying to get as many students involved as possible.

Adams got the idea for Empty Bowls from a similar program she was involved in when she taught in Carroll County. While teaching at Dwight D. Eisenhower Middle School last year, Adams' service learning efforts earned her the Service Learning Fellowship inPrince George's Countyschools. This is her first year at Laurel High, and she said that to her knowledge, Empty Bowls is the first event of its kind at the school.


Because of a $1,000 grant from the Walt Disney Co., Adams said, the school is able to go into Friday's event with no overhead, and all proceeds can go directly to FISH. The grant covered the cost of catering by Dish and Design, in Halethorpe, and the supplies for the ceramic bowls.

"Literally, every cent we make will be able to be donated now," Adams said. "It's nice to have it all covered. ... If we make $100, it can go to them. If we make $1,000, it can go to them. If we make $3,000, it can all go to them."

Between the cost of a $10 ticket, and money raised through a silent auction of other ceramics made by seniors at the Laurel-Beltsville Senior Activity Center, Adams said she hoped the school would be able to make as much as possible for FISH.

Adams said she was expecting about 100 people at the event, but there will be enough broccoli cheddar soup and cupcakes for 250. After attendees eat dinner, they'll be given a presentation on how hunger impacts the Laurel community, and they'll each go home with a bowl made by the ceramics students.

"The bowls are a reminder," Adams said. "They're leaving with an empty bowl, and they're reminded that this is about hunger in Laurel, in their community."

The Empty Bowls fundraiser is Friday, April 20, from 5-7 p.m. in the cafeteria at Laurel High, 8000 Cherry Lane. Admission is $10 (cash or checks only), which includes a ticket to Laurel High's production of "Dracula" at 7 p.m. Call the school at 301-497-2050.

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