(914) Cares Fourth Annual Empty Bowls Event Raises $120,000 to Fight Hunger in Westchester
On the cold Sunday evening before Thanksgiving, a warmth radiated from Crabtree’s Kittle House Restaurant and Inn. The smell of hearty food filled the air. A simple meal of soup, bread and hors d’oeuvres was being prepared in the kitchen. An abstract sculpture stood inside the entrance of this quaint venue. It was made of ceramic bowls and cans of soup, layered in rows that progressively narrowed from bottom to top, forming a tree. The tree symbolized the upcoming holiday season. The bowls were individually and uniquely hand-painted by members of the community. They were all empty; a reminder that many cannot afford to fill their bowls. The guests of the evening were there to support the Empty Bowls Westchester annual fundraiser to help the fight against hunger.
Throughout the restaurant, soup and bread stations were set up alongside additional displays of painted bowls. Signs explaining the work being done to end hunger sat beside more of the painted bowls. The Mount Kisco Interfaith Food Pantry displayed a sign saying, “We fed 41,791 people last year”. The Boys & Girls Club of Northern Westchester showed a sign informing, “We serve over 80,000 nutritious meals each year.” Hillside Food Outreach had a sign that shared, “We have over 300 volunteers that pack & deliver to our clients.”
Celebrities Help the Cause
Set aside from the main event, the Kittle House’s Tap room was lined with tables showcasing larger bowls that had been signed by celebrities who support this important cause. Celebrities who participated by donating signed bowls included Yankees legend Mariano Rivera, Bon Jovi’s Richie Sambora, author and activist Cecile Richards, US golfing great Tom Watson, Bill and Hillary Clinton, author James Patterson, HQ Trivia Host Scott Rogowsky and Pinkalicious children’s author Victoria Kahn. These “Celebrity Bowls” were an important part of the fundraising effort. They were available to bid on in the evening’s highly anticipated silent auction.
Empty Bowls Westchester is a division of (914) Cares–an organization that supports local Westchester based non-profits that focus on basic human needs: food, clothing, shelter, medical care and education. According to the Feeding Westchester (formerly known as the Westchester Food Bank), one in five residents of Westchester is food insecure, which means approximately 200,000 people are hungry or at risk for hunger. Each year, an Empty Bowls Committee is formed to run the local arm of the international grassroots effort to raise money and awareness in the fight to end hunger in our community.
A Community Wide Effort
Beginning in the spring, (914) Cares Co-Founders Dawn Greenberg and Jessica Reinmann work with volunteers from the community who donate their time to hand paint bowls, one by one. Members from Congregation Sons of Israel Briarcliff, Pace University and Strauss Paper employees along with several Girl Scout troops are among those who helped paint bowls which, this year, totaled over 250. Once painted, A Maze in Pottery in Briarcliff Manor, a generous supporter of this cause, fires all the painted bowls in their kiln.
Local Grant Recipients Utilize Event’s Funds
Local organizations who are on the front lines in the fight against hunger apply to receive grants from the funds raised. This year six grant recipients were selected. These organizations were Bread of Life, The Boys and Girls Club of Northern Westchester, The Community Center of Northern Westchester, Hillside Food Outreach, The Interfaith Emergency Food Pantry of Pleasantville and The Mount Kisco Interfaith Food Pantry.
The recipients of this year’s grants were extremely appreciative for funding they received, but the community members who attended the fundraiser were just as thankful for the work the organizations do. Whether it’s through rescuing food so that it does not go to waste, delivering food to the sick or elderly, or running a food pantry year -round; through the grace of these organizations, the gap between those who are able to give and those who are in need is being bridged. The people who champion this cause maintain that they get more than they give from the work they do.
Ways to Get Involved
Empty Bowls Westchester and (914) Cares are always looking for the help of generous people. Whatever one can give is significant and makes a difference. Reinmann encourages the community to continue to support this cause by hosting a bowl painting party, becoming a sponsor or attending the next Empty Bowls Westchester event. Celebrity–signed bowls are always welcome donations for the silent auction portion of the fundraiser. There are many ways to get involved.
In Reinmann’s experience, people are very generous during the holiday season, but help often declines in January and February. The depth of winter, however, is when the need for help is the greatest. She encourages people to reach out to local food banks to find out what is needed and run a drive to raise those items accordingly.
The Empty Bowls event was a success but there is still much more work to be done. Since its inception, four years ago, Empty Bowls Westchester has raised almost half a million dollars. Greenberg and Reinmann aim to continue to support the growth of the program. They want to help create a community where basic fundamental needs are available to everyone. A place where poverty and hunger is not temporarily mended with a band aid but rather where the cycle of poverty is ended.
When the evening was over, every attendee received a hand-painted bowl to remind them of all the empty bowls in the world that still need to be filled and to inspire them to continue to support ending hunger. The ultimate goal, according to Reinmann, is “the day when (914) Cares is no longer needed, that will be the best day ever.”
For more information on how to support Empty Bowls Westchester, please visit 914cares.org
Some Really Super Bowls
Over the past four years, a number of very special bowls have been auctioned during the Empty Bowls silent auction. Artist in Residence and committee member, Melissa Levine, painted most of this year’s bowls that were sent to celebrities who volunteered to sign them to help raise money for this cause. A Maze in Pottery Briarcliff Manor’s Nancy Beard generously assisted by lending her artistic talent to paint some of the celebrity-signed bowls. For this year’s auction, comedian Jim Belushi did his own artwork on the bowl he signed and donated.
The bidding on celebrity bowls starts at $125 and bowls can go for any amount higher. To date, the bowl that has gotten the highest bid was from last year’s silent auction. It was a bowl signed by the entire Philadelphia Eagles football team and was won by a bid of $1,700.
Some celebrities, for example Bill and Hillary Clinton, are regular supporters, and have signed a bowl to be auctioned each year.
On occasion, a bowl will be sent to a celebrity for signing and the celebrity will return the bowl with an additional item to be included in the auction. Two years ago, musician James Taylor added a signed guitar to his donation. For this year’s auction, Richie Sambora donated a signed guitar along with his signed bowl.