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January 31, 2005

School for the Deaf hosts 'Bowl' benefit for food agencies

From: WBRZ - Baton Rouge,LA,USA - Jan 31, 2005

Advocate staff writer

Walk into Julie Harrison's art classroom at the Louisiana School for the Deaf and the bowls are the first things you notice.

Boxes of them sit in the hallway; bowls in various stages of development line the tables throughout the room.

On Feb. 16, they'll all be ready for purchase during the second annual "Empty Bowls" fund-raiser to benefit the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank and the St. Vincent de Paul Dining Room.

During the event, people who pay a minimum $10 donation get to choose a bowl made by students, teachers and clubs from across the state and enjoy a good meal from Chef John Folse.

Folse volunteers his time, talent, staff and food to the program, which provides 100 percent of the donations back to the two charities.

Last year, Folse made gumbo, but this year the meal is being described only as "special" to add to the surprise, said Trish Mann, director of outreach services for the Louisiana School for the Deaf.

Although the national "Empty Bowls" program has been around for more than a decade, Harrison, the school's vocational and art teacher, decided to start the program locally last year.

"Julie is one of these go-getters where once she focuses on something, (you) better get out of the way or get on board," Mann said.

She said Harrison not only got a kiln donated for the project, but found donated clay as well.

"She came up with the idea that 100 percent of the profit was going to go to St. Vincent de Paul and the Food Bank, which meant everything had to be donated," Mann said.

From the start, art teachers at the LSU Lab School joined in the effort and students contributed their work as well.

Not knowing what to expect last year, the organizers opened the doors anticipating between 200 and 400 people.

"It was a rainy, stormy night and we had over 800 people show up," Mann said.

The program raised more than $13,000 between the bowl donations and silent auction, she said.

Bowl production for the upcoming event started the next day.

This year, bowls are being contributed by Boy Scout Troops, Girl Scout Troops, private and public schools -- including a Catholic school in the St. James Parish community of Paulina. Students at the School for the Deaf have been working after school and on the weekends to finish their bowls.

High school senior Jennifer Higgins, 17, worked at painting one of the bowls in preparation for its firing in the kiln during art class recently. She decided to paint the entire bowl blue and then started carefully working on black and white flowers that would grace the inside.

Her inspiration?

"Whatever pops into your mind first," Higgins said.

Even though this is her first year in the art class, she got involved making bowls last year for the first fund-raiser.

"It was wonderful," she said. "It was great."

She'll be helping again this year through the Junior National Association of the Deaf club as a community service project. Higgins said she plans to attend LSU after graduation and study medicine.

Senior Mark Garton, 18, also helped, pounding out any remaining air bubbles in the raw clay before it was shaped into bowls. This is Gouton's third year in the art class and he's progressed to learning how to "throw" bowls on the potter's wheel. Not as easy as it sounds, he said.

"I had to do it eight times before I made a decent bowl. It wasn't perfect. It was decent," he said with a laugh.

Garton also assisted during last year's event and said he had a lot of fun, plus it was a good feeling to know that they were helping people in need. Garton said he plans to attend the University of New Orleans or LSU after graduation and to study art and English with a focus on becoming a teacher.

The bowls come in almost every shape and size, from the ones made by 4- and 5-year-olds at a local church school to the more polished bowls created by high school art students.

"The bowls are symbolic," Harrison said.

Some people may use them around the house or just put them on the table where they place empty change that will later be donated to a worthy cause, she said.

"It's just a reminder that there are empty bowls in the world," Harrison said.

FUND-RAISER: This year's "Empty Bowl" program -- benefiting the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank and the St. Vincent de Paul Dining Room -- will be held 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Feb. 16 at the Louisiana School for the Deaf, 2888 Brightside Lane, Baton Rouge.

TICKETS: To get advance tickets, call (225) 757-3327. Tickets also will be sold at the door for a minimum $10 donation.

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