Building a community one bowl at a time
BECKLEY, W.Va. (AP) — In the warmth of the Youth Museum of Southern West Virginia, members of the greater Beckley community, both old and new, gathered on Martin Luther King Jr. Day to act out one of his wishes ending hunger — one brush stroke at a time.
Volunteers with the Beckley chapter of Empty Bowls, an international project to end hunger, were hard at work inside the museum, painting bowls which will be auctioned off in a couple months to benefit nine charities.
“Doing these kinds of bowls is all over the world now,” said Rebecca Beckett, an employee of the museum and coordinator for the local initiative, which is a partnership between the Quota Club of Beckley and the Youth Museum.
While each initiative acts independently, Beckett said that Empty Bowls was started more than 25 years ago by a couple of potters from North Carolina who wanted to do something for their community.
Those potters made small bowls, about the size that would fit the small meal which many in the world get to eat a day, and auctioned them off to address food insecurity.
In the previous five years, Beckett said the Beckley chapter of the initiative has raised approximately $80,000 and made between 500 and 1,000 bowls each year.
“It’s very labor-intensive,” Beckett said.
To help with that labor, members of the Quota Club, community members, students from West Virginia University Institute of Technology and VISTA members were on hand Monday.
“It feels good to help other people,” said Jodi Malcom, a WVU Tech student from White Sulphur Springs.
It is Malcom’s second time out in the community lending a hand. According to the college student, she was part of a group that helped clean up the city during orientation.
It is that buy-in from the college and other organizations which really excites Beckett.
“It’s multi-layer, just good stuff,” Beckett said.
Along with the partnership between the museum and the Quota Club, the help from college students and the general public, Beckett applauded the generosity of restaurants which provide the soup for the auction day and the Beckley Area Foundation, which provides a grant by which clay is purchased for the bowls.
Along with charitable efforts, Beckett said the nine organizations which receive funds from Empty Bowls must also buy in and lend a hand.
The Empty Bowls initiative is active throughout the year, but Beckett said the effort on MLK Day adds something to the work.
“It’s another one of those layers of community service and fundraising for a cause that is just not going to go away,” the coordinator said.
While tackling a serious issue in the community and around the world, Beckett made light of aesthetic progress the Beckley initiative has made in the past five years.
“We’ve gotten better and better,” the coordinator said, before cracking a joke. “I have an art degree but I’m not a potter.”
While southern West Virginia is home for Malcom, the project and others like it have helped another Tech student tie into the community.
“I feel good,” said Marcos de Paula Damaso, a Tech student from Brazil. “I like to do volunteer jobs.”
For the Brazilian student, events such as Monday’s allow him to connect to Beckley and to the community of southern West Virginia.
While proud to help individuals in need, de Paula Damaso believes that working for charitable efforts, especially on an important day such as Monday, helps with something a little bit bigger than the individual.
“It’s not just to help the people,” de Paula Damaso said, “but to help the community to be better.”
Information from: The Register-Herald, http://www.register-herald.com