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Chautauqua Empty Bowls project to raise money to fight hunger

DUNKIRK – The potters of Chautauqua County have been busy creating pottery bowls for the annual Empty Bowls fundraiser at 11 a.m. on Dec. 6 at the Blessed Mary Angela Parish Hall in Dunkirk.

This year’s plan is to have 1,000 bowls on display. The bowls represent months of work by artists and students, who used their own materials.

More than 60 hours was spent just watching the kilns this week as another batch of pottery was fired for the project.

For a donation of $10 to $30, people can choose a bowl and then have it filled with hot soup for lunch. The fundraising event is the largest single contributor to the Rural Ministries Friendly Kitchen in Dunkirk.

The event started more than 10 years ago with Marvin Bjurlin and Ron Nasca, who are both members of the Chautauqua Area Potters, as a project for students at Fredonia State College. Over the years has grown with support from the community.

This year Stephanie Brash, an art teacher at Brocton Central School, got students involved, and they have produced 60 bowls for the event.

High school culinary arts students also contribute by preparing food. Students from the LoGuidice Center in Fredonia will make soup and students from the Hewes Center in Ashville will provide cookies.

Bjurlin, who taught at Fredonia State, said, “Tom Gestwicki, who was a student in one of my art classes more than 30 years ago, will provide musical entertainment.”

Bjurlin said Nasca has been firing creations with a red copper glaze. The porcelain bowls have deep purples and reds that can only be created with the special copper-based pigments.

Last year the group raised $19,300 for the local food pantry. It received a quarterly report on the use of the funds that were contributed to the effort to supply food to needy people in Chautauqua County.

“In the first three quarters of this year, our funds had already helped provide 10,700 pounds of food,” Bjurlin said. “It took us about 2,000 pounds of clay to produce more than five times that amount in pounds of food.”

The group’s goal is to sell all of the bowls that are available.

“We came really close last year and we had 1,103 bowls ready,” Nasca noted.

The Empty Bowls project is part of a nationwide program to help raise funds and awareness about hunger.