By Darren Johnson
Take a second to think about November. You may have thought of cool, brisk weather, falling leaves, your extended family, watching football, and a hearty Thanksgiving meal. But what many of us forget is that not everyone can enjoy these things. They have no home to shelter them from the cold, no family who comes to visit, no money for TV, and not even a meal on Thanksgiving.
Fortunately, there are many charities that work hard to help these people. One such charity is the Corona-Norco Settlement House in Corona, CA. The Settlement House strives to be their community’s source of compassion, information, and support for people who are suffering personal crises threatening their stability, safety, housing and health. Ultimately, their goal is to ensure that those in need have food, shelter, and clothing for their children to wear to school. On Saturday, November 7, 2015, there will be a great opportunity to help this organization’s noble cause with the Empty Bowls Dinner.
The Empty Bowls Dinner began with a high school art teacher trying to raise funds for a local food drive in 1990. The teacher had his students create ceramic bowls, and then invited guests to a simple dinner of soup and bread. They encouraged their guests to keep the bowls as a reminder of those who often go to bed hungry – with an empty bowl. Since then, the Empty Bowls Dinner has become an international grassroots campaign. While the meals served at Empty Bowls Dinners vary, they are always meant to remind the diner that there are many people who can only afford the simple, inexpensive meal before them.
The Empty Bowls Dinner has seen great success in the Corona-Norco community. For the past nine years since its inception, the Settlement House has seen around 400 to 500 diners attend their Empty Bowls Dinner every year. Providing for such an event requires the help of a large contingent in the community: money needed for the event is provided by many donors. Local artists, schools, and church groups work to create the bowls for the diners to take home. Sixteen local restaurants donate soup, salad, dessert, and beverages for the meals. To keep such a large event running smoothly, the Settlement House needs the help of over 100 volunteers.
In contrast with the simplicity of the meal, the event is always lively as the diners are filled with the joy that comes with providing for those in need. They enjoy an upbeat and festive atmosphere, created by all day entertainment along with raffles and silent auctions to participate in. There are many prizes to be won, such as gift baskets that include Disneyland tickets, rounds of golf at local golf courses, restaurant gift certificates, hand-make quilts, Starbucks coffee and items, movie passes, passes to local amusement parks, and much more.
Best of all, the Empty Bowls Dinner makes a huge difference for the Settlement House and the community it supports. The diners leave with a greater awareness of those who are struggling in the community, and the services which the Settlement House provides. As a major fundraiser for the Settlement House, they receive much of the income they need for the next year. Over the past eight years, they have received an average net profit of $20,000.00. Of course, all of the net proceeds from the dinner will go to services for those in need in the community. By simply attending this dinner, based on figures from 2014, you will be playing a large part in helping the Settlement House provide groceries to 4,573 families, rental assistance to 48 families, utilities assistance to 241 families, food baskets to 700 families and toys to over 3,000 children at Christmas; not to mention the 1,024 homeless who receive services through the Homeless Program, and the 4,157 homeless who were provided brown bag lunches.
The Empty Bowls Dinner takes place on Saturday, November 7, 2015 from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. It takes place at Turning Point Church (2000 Norco Drive) in Norco, CA. The cost is $20 for adults and $5 for children 10 years old and younger (buy tickets here). All diners will be able to select and take home a hand-painted or hand-crafted bowl to remind them of the hunger that exists in our Southern California community.
Please take the time to attend the Empty Bowls Dinner, especially if you are from the Corona-Norco area. It will be an eye-opening experience, and a great benefit to your community.