Dade City – Last year, Empty Bowls raised nearly $25,000 to stock the “Kid’s Café.” Together with Feeding America Tampa Bay, these funds enabled the Lewis Abraham Lacoochee Unit of the Boys & Girls Club to feed its 50 Club members hot dinners Monday through Friday in 2014. Each child was also given a bag of groceries to take home each Friday night to help sustain them and their siblings over the weekend.
Next year, both the goals and the needs have doubled as the Club moved into its new facility within the Lacoochee Community Center in Stanley Park and plans to see the number of youth served reach 100.
This is the Club’s Third Annual Empty Bowls event. The format is the same as other long-running sister events in Tampa. For $10 a ticket, participants get a small bowl of soup, bread, a bottle of water, and kumquat pie for lunch. Ticket holders are given a “thank you” — colorful clay bowls as unique their Boys & Girls Club member who made them. Curtis Beebe, chef and owner of Pearl in the Grove and Local Public House & Provisions, will be making a vegetable soup using locally sourced produce, as he’s done since the event’s inception. Also as in years past, Panera Bread Company donates the bread, Feeding America donates the bottled water, and Lacoochee’s Officer Friendly David Hink and his wife Jean donate kumquat puree and help the kids make mini refrigerator pies.
There will be a silent auction again this year. Last year’s auction featured 60 items and 44 gift certificates and helped the Club raise another $1,400.
“Last year we had nearly reached our goal before the first bowl of soup was served,” said Steve Hickman, Chairman of the Lacoochee Club’s Advisory Council. “Now that we occupy the new Lacoochee Community Center we can accommodate more children, which will double our costs to feed and support these youth. That makes this year’s event critical to keeping our kids fed while they participate in Club activities. We hope the whole community will support the kids by joining us for lunch on November 14.”
According to the USDA Food Research Atlas data, 22 percent of Pasco County residents have low access to a grocery store. What’s more, 33,872 residents have low access to a grocery store and are also low income. Lacoochee falls into the latter category, and is considered to be meet the Federal Healthy Food Financing Initiative’s “Distress Criteria.” More than 20 percent of its population is living in poverty while the nearest full-service supermarket is seven miles away. This makes the nourishment provided at the Lacoochee Boys & Girls Club a necessity to the children living in these conditions.
All monies raised at Empty Bowls goes directly toward the Club’s feeding program. In 2012, the Lacoochee Boys & Girls Club served 5,142 meals to Club members. In 2013, that number rose to 6,947 and is expected to reach 10,000 in 2014.
“We’re about three to four months away from completing our new gym and stage,” said David Armstrong, Executive Director of Pasco County for the Boys & Girls Club of Tampa Bay. “Once that’s complete, we’ll begin to really see our numbers swell. We want to keep them coming back so we can be a positive influence on their lives. Feeding them really helps us do just that.”
Tickets for the 2014 Empty Bowls are now available at the First National Bank of Pasco in Dade City at 13135 U.S. Highway 301 or at the Lacoochee Boys & Girls Club in Stanley Park, across from Lacoochee Elementary School. The Lacoochee Boys & Girls Club is now seeking sponsors and silent auction donations for this event. To learn more, contact Susan Mathews, Empty Bowls Chair at (727) 410-7771, or David Armstrong of the Boys & Girls Club at (813) 785-3496.
About Empty Bowls: Empty Bowls is an international grassroots effort to fight hunger and was created by The Imagine Render Group. The basic premise is simple: Potters and other craftspeople, educators and others work with the community to create handcrafted bowls. Guests are invited to a simple meal of soup and bread. In exchange for a cash donation, guests are asked to keep a bowl as a reminder of all the empty bowls in the world. The money raised is donated to an organization working to end hunger and food insecurity.
About the Lacoochee Boys & Girls Club: The Club works to enable all young people, especially those who need help the most, to realize their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens. Annually, the Lacoochee Club serves nearly 500 at-risk youth in comprehensive out of school time programming. The Lacoochee Boys & Girls Club believes every child has the potential to be great. In support of this strong conviction, the Club strives to build driven and independent adults. The Boys & Girls Club family – a community of staff, volunteers, parents, youth and supporters – work together to create a positive place, full of hope and opportunity, for every child in East Pasco County.
Lacoochee Boys & Girls Club Sources:
Steve Hickman, Chairman. shickman@FNBPasco.com. (352) 521-7250
David Armstrong, Executive Director/East Pasco. email@example.com.
Susan Mathews, Empty Bowls Chair. firstname.lastname@example.org. (352) 567-5133, ext. 6216
Jennifer Frazier, Volunteer Chair. Jennifer@thecreativestable.com. (813) 991-2334