The Mercer Island High School art, ceramics and throw class joined together to host the school’s first Empty Bowls fundraiser to benefit the Bread of Life Mission.
Chantel Torrey, MIHS ceramics teacher, first came up with the idea in early September.
“The idea of the empty bowls thing has been around for a long time and is a nation-wide concept,” she said. “I thought, ‘We are Mercer Island — we have all this talent, and wouldn’t it be great to show these kids that their art has value and can actually help other people?’”
Her students have been preparing for the fundraiser since the beginning of the school year. For Torrey, she said she enjoyed watching her students’ transformation as they realized that not only could they create art that other people could enjoy, but that their art also could be used to support people in need.
“It was really eye-opening for them because they’re on the Island and it can sometimes feel like they’re sort of removed from things that are going on just outside of the Island,” she said.
The Empty Bowls fundraiser allowed students to create bowls to be sold for $30 each. On the evening of May 1, members of the community brought in soups, stews, bread and drinks for everyone to partake in a community dinner. All proceeds went to the Bread of Life Mission.
The process to select which organization the fundraiser was going to support wasn’t easy. All of the students had different ideas of what and who they wanted to help.
“A lot of us wanted to help veterans, other people wanted to help homeless people and others wanted to help women and children,” MIHS ceramics freshman Lilly Jester said. “We ended up choosing the Bread of Life Mission because they kind of cover all of that.”
Thomas Molina, the Bread of Life community outreach coordinator, said he was happy when he learned MIHS had chosen the organization to be the recipients of the fundraiser.
“We got an email from the students saying that we were among the top choices to be the recipients of their fundraiser and before I knew it, I was asked to speak at the event,” he said.
The Bread of Life Mission is celebrating its 80th year. Molina said he thought it was a great coincidence that as the Bread of Life Mission is celebrating its 80th year and that the MIHS Empty Bowls fundraiser was launching its first annual event.
“I think it’s great these kids are doing this because it’s easy to forget that there is great need just a few miles away,” he said.
The Bread of Life Mission, while known for its food and service to the homeless of Seattle, serves as a day shelter and night shelter as well as several programs to assist people with everything from drug recovery to finding permanent housing.
“They are a really great organization, and I’m happy the kids chose them for this year,” Torrey said.
Organizing the fundraiser also provided challenges. Torrey sought assistance from the Mercer Island Fine Arts Advisory Council (FAAC). The FAAC is a nonprofit dedicated to supporting K-12 fine arts education in the Mercer Island School District. FAAC president Marni Sheppard said the FAAC was happy to help with organizing the logistics of the fundraiser. The FAAC worked to take in donations, organize the volunteers and create the event page.
Even before the end of the evening, the FAAC calculated the sales and donations to be more than $2,000.