DADE CITY — Last year’s inaugural Empty Bowls Luncheon was such a resounding success, organizers could be hard pressed to improve on it. But they’re going to try.
The fundraiser benefiting the Boys & Girls Club in Lacoochee generated $21,000 in its first year — enough to keep the club’s feeding program stocked for the entire year. Club director Jennie Yingling said this year she’s hoping to raise $50,000.
The higher target is necessary because the club’s Kids’ Cafe went from feeding 30 children to 50 every day after school. When the organization moves into its new facility in 2014, the program could serve as many as 100 children daily.
The fundraiser, launched by Feeding America Tampa Bay, will be held Nov. 15 at the historic Pasco County Courthouse in Dade City. A longtime tradition in Tampa, the event generally coincides with Thanksgiving. Donors pay $10, and in return they receive a lunch of soup, bread, a dessert, water and an empty clay bowl handcrafted by local children.
“It’s an easy way for people to give — $10 is easy,” Yingling said. “It makes it obtainable for everyone in the community. Every dime we raise goes directly into the food program here at the Boys & Girls Club.”
Yingling and Ronnie Deese, president of the club’s board of directors, made several tweaks to the fundraiser this year, starting with the date. Yingling said they learned that a number of offices in Dade City typically schedule holiday luncheons the Friday before Thanksgiving, and they want to reach those workers.
“We think we’ll get nice weather,” Yingling said. “Last year it was freezing, which is good when you want to sell more soup.”
And with a year to get ready, children from Lacoochee were able to craft the clay bowls for the giveaway. Last year Feeding America donated hundreds of surplus bowls from its Tampa warehouse because there wasn’t time for Pasco kids to make enough bowls for the event.
Dade City artist Molly Barnes donated the clay and taught the children how to make the bowls while sharing stories about famous potters from Oaxaca, Mexico. “There’s nothing bad or wrong you can do with clay, because if something goes wrong you can always start over,” she told the kids.
The kids will be making the desserts for the luncheon. Lacoochee’s Officer Friendly, David Hink, and his wife are donating kumquat puree, and the kids help prepare the “refrigerator pies.”
Chef Curtis Beebe, owner of Pearl in the Grove, has signed up again to donate the soup and said he’ll “crank out” as much as needed.
“I’m pretty sure it’ll be vegetable soup,” Beebe said. “That way you don’t have to worry about catering to vegetarians or any other type of dietary needs. We’ll stick with our principle of using whatever produce is in season, so we won’t know what’ll go into it until a few days before when we see what the farmers have at the market.”
Tickets can be purchased in advance at First National Bank in Dade City or on the day of the event.