If one takes a moment to think about it, an empty bowl might just be the perfect metaphor for those in London who go without eating far too often.
The London Potters Guild, with the help of some local restaurants, is taking that metaphor literally on March 1 and filling up those bowls, in support of the Ark Aid Street Mission. Empty Bowls is a fundraiser for the Ark Aid and will take place at the Goodwill Centre (255 Horton St.) from 12 noon to 1:30 p.m. and 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Empty Bowl fundraisers have been held around North America for more than 20 years with millions being raised in the fight to end hunger. Potters make the bowls, chefs make the soups, and guests have a meal served in the handmade bowl they will take home with them.
Teresa Ainsworth, is an Empty Bowls committee member, and says the guild already has some 300 bowls finished and is busy working to finish the final 100 in preparation for the fundraiser. As is likely the case for every Empty Bowls fundraiser, Ainsworth said that metaphor of the empty bowel is hard to ignore.
“The whole symbolism of Empty Bowl, representing all the empty bowls, the poverty and starvation around the world. So you are going home with a symbol of the lack of food,” Ainsworth said. “As you are making the bowls, you do think about all the people who are being fed around here. Down here in the village you see the people living in poverty, who don’t have enough to eat. So that is something I know that I have been thinking about during this.”
Doug Whitelaw, executive director Ark Aid Street Mission, certainly agrees with Ainsworth’s perception.
The mission, Whitelaw said, served just less than 26,000 meals last year, averaging a little over 2,000 per month. Those numbers were rising over the year as well, Whitelaw said, with the average reaching more than 2,200 by the end of the year.
On any given night, the mission can typically serve anywhere from 80 to 95 meals.
“There are places that have meal nights once a month; our niche is that we are here every night,” Whitelaw said. “If you aren’t sure of where else a meal is, you know one is here. Other places may have more meals served on the night they do it, but they aren’t doing it every night.”
The mission is also open for several hours during weekday afternoons with anywhere from 100 to 180 people dropping by for coffee, tea, or bagels, donuts and muffins donated by local businesses and school cafeterias.
The mission also has a used clothing outlet, and art program and computer learning opportunities, which together with the meal service, means funding is always a concern. Without receiving grants, the mission relies on donations, whether they are from individuals, churches, local foundations or businesses.
With the post-Christmas wintertime being a traditionally slow time for donations, Whitelaw said the generosity of the London Potters Guild was particularly meaningful.
“We are quite excited one of our neighbours in the Old East Village would undertake a fundraising event for other neighbours. When people think of us unprompted, it is really gratifying,” Whitelaw said. “I understand this is what potter guilds across North America are doing, it is quite suitable and is a reminder there are empty bowls, more all the time.”
Whitelaw also praised the guild for offering to hold the fundraiser in light of its own financial needs as work continues on the London Clay Art Centre, located just a few blocks down from the mission on Dundas Street.
Ainsworth said that close proximity is one reason why the guild was moved to start its own Empty Bowls event in the first place.
“The Ark Aid Mission is just down the street from our guild, half a block away, so we see their clients all the time. We see the people in need,” Ainsworth said. “They are a just the perfect recipient for Empty Bowls.”
Ainsworth said the guild is soliciting downtown merchants to come out to the lunch service, while they are targeting the whole community for the dinner meal. Tickets are $25 and are available at the London Clay Arts Centre (664 Dundas St.) or online at www.londonpottersguild.org.
The expectation, Ainsworth said, is for approximately 120 people per meal. “This is our first one, so we aren’t trying to be super ambitious. But we are hoping we can do really well.”
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