May 28, 2016


Students’ creativity helps raise money for food banks, shelters

AVON LAKE — Leslie Koelsch knew she would have no trouble providing an imaginative and colorful array of bowls to fill with soup for a fundraiser once she sought the aid of her young, enthused charges.

Sponsors of this upcoming weekend’s Empty Bowls by the Lake event at Bleser Park told the Avon Lake elementary school art teacher they needed artists to help produce a lot of bowls.

“I told them I have artists,” Koelsch said.

The artisans she had in mind were nearly 200 enthused kindergarteners through fourth-graders at Redwood and Westview elementary schools.

Even more bowls were done by students of Dana Eckert, another art teacher at the city’s Eastview Elementary School.

“Just as you called I was glazing another bowl for a child who was absent,” Koelsch said earlier in the week.
“We’ve been working on them about three weeks now,” Koelsch said.

Getting kids pumped up for the project wasn’t hard.

“Anytime you bring out clay they get excited,” Koelsch said. “They just had the best time. They are so creative. Some added handles and someone made a spoon. Others made flowers and adornments. It made glazing more difficult, but that’s OK. Their little minds just took off.”

A grassroots effort to fight hunger, Empty Bowls has raised millions of dollars for food banks, soup kitchens, shelters and other organizations since it began in 1990 as a class project by a Michigan art teacher whose students made ceramic bowls from which people enjoyed a simple meal of soup and bread.

Bowls are typically created by craftspeople, potters and others.

In exchange for a cash donation, guests may keep their bowl as a reminder of all the empty bowls in the world.

Saturday’s Empty Bowls by the Lake at Bleser Park will serve meals 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Soup bowls for the event came from a variety of sources including a North Olmsted art studio and elementary and high school students in Avon Lake, as well as students at Olmsted Falls High School and Lake Ridge Academy.

Bread was given by the Avon Lake Giant Eagle, while restaurants in Avon, Avon Lake, Rocky River and Westlake donated food like chili, chicken paprikash, clam chowder, gumbo and loaded baked potatoes.

Sponsors even managed to solicit donations of chicken green chili and lobster bisque from The Goat and The Boardwalk in Put-In-Bay, according to Laura Kirchner, one of the event’s organizers.

“I just can’t believe how everyone came forward to help out,” Kirchner said. “It’s been unbelievable. There has been so much work and creativity put into this.”

Blue Sky Restaurant in Elyria is providing 10 gallons of stuffed pepper soup, according to Kirchner.

All the soups and other food will be savored from handmade bowls painted in fall colors, as well as bright pinks, reds, greens and purples.

“Some have beach scenes, others have cats and cat’s ears on the bowl, and one has a huge alien that began as an octopus,” Koelsch said. “Some of them are quite wild.”

Works of local artists will be sold during a silent auction during the luncheon.

Proceeds benefit Second Harvest Food Bank and CRS, an Avon Lake-based group that provides assistance within the community.

More information can be found at

Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or

About Steve Fogarty

Steve Fogarty has been with the Chronicle-Telegram since 1978. He primarily covers North Ridgeville. He can be reached at 329-7146 or