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HCFB Empty Bowls soup lady

Empty Bowls Naples 2016 has raised $95,000 for the Harry Chapin Food Bank, blowing away last year's record total of $66,000!

The handmade bowls have gone home with the members of the community who chose them, the big soup pots are clean and shiny once more, and it’s all over but for the celebrating.

We are deeply grateful to the community, volunteers, and sponsors who made this happen.

 Joyce Jacobs, lead staff member from the Harry Chapin Food Bank for the event, said about 2,000 people attended Saturday. The 10th annual event was presented by Tamiami Ford and Tamiami Hyundai of Naples, along with a core group of other sponsors.

In return for a donation of $15, participants got to choose one of about 2,500 handmade ceramic bowl created by local artists, educators, students and volunteers, and then sample any or all of the soups provided by the chefs of 46 area restaurants. They kept the empty bowl as a reminder of all those in Southwest Florida who may go home to an empty bowl because they don’t have enough to eat.  

HCFB Empty Bowls crowd

Some event-goers filled us in on why they participated.

Lisa Miller and Jodie Pientka were the first in line, as they have been for nine years in a row. "We were here before the sun came out," Lisa said. That was at 5:45 a.m. The event started at 11 a.m. Why stand in the chilly pre-dawn? They know how important Empty Bowls and the money it raises is to the food bank, they said. Besides, "It's fun!" Jodie said.

About halfway down the block-long line, Leslie Babb and her daughter, Jeanette Brown, waited patiently.  “We’ve been coming here for years,” Brown said. “We believe in Harry Chapin Food Bank.” Besides, “The line goes fast,” she said.

“We love it. We wouldn’t miss it. It’s a tradition,” Babb added.

Jennifer and John Ashford were there with their two daughters, Mary, 3, and Emily, 1. “We love it,” Jennifer said of Empty Bowls. “Both of us are very philanthropic.” Their daughters were learning to follow in their parents’ footsteps. That morning, Jennifer said little Mary kept saying, “Fill the soup bowls!”

Jim Schuetz and Riley, his golden retriever, sat at a picnic bench watching the Barron Collier High School drum corps entertain the crowd.

“We’ve come every year since he was a puppy,” Schuetz said. “We just love to participate in community events. This is our favorite.”

The Lorenzo Walker Technical College served a hearty roasted veggie tortellini soup. Kamela Patton, Collier County school superintendent, and Barbara Allen-Hager dished it out. They were in a line of 45 other tables manned with volunteers ladling soup out to the hungry masses. “A lot of people don’t realize the need for the food bank here,” Patton said. “It’s important for all of these to work together,” she said of the restaurants.

Everywhere, people were talking soup. Did you try the chowder? Where did you get the split pea soup? There were long lines for Tomato Basil served by Gina’s Café and Lobster Bisque served by Lamorga Restaurant. Several restaurants ran out of their 10-gallon supplies of soup.

If people weren’t talking soup, they were talking art, in terms of the beautiful ceramic bowls and platters on display at a boutique and several tables of silent auction items. The bidding was brisk and bountiful.

In the meantime, there is no rest in the mission to fight hunger in Southwest Florida. About two weeks from now, preparations and bowl creation will start for the 2017 Empty Bowls event! For more information and upcoming events, visit emptybowlsnaples.org.

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