Here (L to R) are art teachers Becky Leland and Jalissa Bankston with Supt. Don Haack and his wife Brenda. Photo by Paul J. Seeling
Here (L to R) are art teachers Becky Leland and Jalissa Bankston with Supt. Don Haack and his wife Brenda. Photo by Paul J. Seeling

By Paul J. Seeling, Gateway News, with Becky Leland, High School Art Teacher, Spring Valley School District

SPRING VALLEY, WI – The community really came together on Tuesday, March 5 for the Filling Empty Bowls event. This annual event raises student and community awareness of hunger and helps our community to provide food assistance for families in our local population. It also is a way for the public and school to cooperate towards one common communal mission. This was the fifth year for this event, and it was another huge success.

This year Empty Bowls had a large change as event founder high school art instructor Jim Herold retired last spring, and Jalissa Bankston came on board as the elementary teacher, and Becky Leland took the position as the high school teacher. It was exciting to see the event yet again have such great civic support that it surpassed the previous year’s proceeds raised at this fund-raising affair.

Empty Bowls has been able to donate $20,000 over the past four years to our local food shelf as well as the funds needed to start our Spring Valley School’s Backpack Program. On March 5, the people of our area continued their support as they raised $3,000 at the 2019 Empty Bowls event. The creative hand-crafted bowls are still for sale and we take donations all year long. We will be having pottery sales throughout the year where we will sell the treasured bowls. Even though this is an annual event, we help feed our families all year round!

The local populace coming to this school district event had the opportunity to purchase a meal and ceramic bowls produced by grades 2-12 art students. Amy Fisher, Food Services Director, volunteered kitchen services to provide delicious soup (chicken noodle, chili or vegetarian tomato basil soup) bread and dinner buns (from the Spring Valley Bakery), dessert and milk or coffee.  Demonstrations on the potter’s wheel, painting, wood burning, face painting and a Get-Down-to-Draw area was set up for free-form-floor-drawing all for family entertainment. There was even some lovely dinner music provided by students for the enjoyment of all at the 2019 Filling Empty Bowls.

Students in grades 2-12, led by Becky Leland and Jalissa Bankston, have worked hard during the school year to insure a supply of enough bowls for the event. During the March 5th evening event, many students and elementary teachers volunteered to make this event run smoothly. This was an entire school and community coming together to help.

Something new that was tried this year was creating collaborative bowls that were sold at the event. During January this year we invited all students and members of the community to make bowls for the 2019 event. We took those bowls, along with bowls thrown on the pottery wheel by high school students, and the HS ceramics class glazed them alongside the 2nd grade class. It produced stunning results, and very few bowls they glazed were left at the end of the night!  

One hundred percent of the money raised at Empty Bowls is used to support local families through our Spring Valley School’s Backpack Program and the Spring Valley Food Shelf. Bill and Brenda Karnes administer the growing Backpack Program that sends home a nice selection of foodstuffs with a student in need to share with his or her family for the weekend or over extended school breaks. Currently they are sending home 25 food-packed backpacks a week to local families. 

The backpacks get filled with child friendly nutritious food by Youth Group volunteers every other Wednesday at the Emmaus Church. The backpacks are sent home on Friday and are returned on Monday to be refilled the next week.

If you would care to donate to this worthy cause you can drop it off or mail your check to the Spring Valley Middle/High School, S1450 County Road CC, Spring Valley, WI 54767. Thank you!