Jackson County

Buy an Empty Bowl, fill it with gourmet soup to help the homeless

Artists, students and organizations have donated almost 300 bowls for the benefit Empty Bowls designed to raise money for the homeless on the Coast.
Artists, students and organizations have donated almost 300 bowls for the benefit Empty Bowls designed to raise money for the homeless on the Coast.

Jennifer Sutton loved her collection of bowls from Empty Bowls benefits she attended years ago in Cincinnati.

They were beautiful pieces of pottery that reminded her she had contributed to a solution for the homeless people in her community.

She lost the bowls to Hurricane Katrina along with her home, at a time when she became very aware of what it was like to need help.

She was seven months’ pregnant with twins when the hurricane hit in 2005, and she marveled at the support she and others received from volunteers “who just came to help with no expectation of reward.”

“I wanted to make a difference myself. I wanted to get back in touch with the under-served community,” she said, and she became a member of the board for the Open Doors Homeless Coalition, a centralized network serving 50 agencies on the Coast that in turn serve the homeless and others in need.

You get fabulous soup and a bowl to take home.

Mary Simmons, director of Open Doors Homeless Coalition

This year, Sutton and the coalition are bringing an Empty Bowls benefit for the homeless to Ocean Springs’ Mary C. O’Keefe Cultural Center. It will be from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.

You buy a $30 ticket online or at the door. On Saturday, you choose a handcrafted bowl made by local artists and fill it with soup donated from Coast restaurants including kitchens at the Beau Rivage, Salute Italian Restaurant, Mary Mahoney’s Old French House, Olive Garden, Martha’s Tea Room, Sassy Salads, Pho and others.

There will be dessert, tea and coffee, a silent auction and light entertainment as well, and the money goes to a coalition that is working to end homelessness on the Coast.

Artist Barney Adams of Pass Christian is moving his Hunter Jaguar Studio and donated three boxes of bowls. Shearwater Pottery, as well as students and other organizations, also contributed bowls .

“There has been a wonderful participation on the bowls,” Open Doors Director Mary Simmons said. “Board members and staff worked hard, the word spread and the response has been phenomenal.”

She said the organization has been planning this for two years and worked hard on it for the last six months. The bowls were being packed for delivery to the Mary C. on Thursday.

Community fundraising is new for the coalition, which mostly operates on grants. Open Doors offers a screening process and helpline to better connect people in need with the Coast agency that offers the needed services.

Simmons said this benefit will not only raise money but also awareness.

“Plus, you get fabulous soup and a bowl to take home,” Simmons said.

With this benefit, Sutton said she plans to start her collection again of Empty Bowls as she and the coalition bring the idea to others.

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