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Bowled over: Organizers encouraged by turnout for Empty Bowls fund-raiser

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By Daniel Laverty and Deb Hurley Brobst

The Mountain Resource Center hosts its Empty Bowls fund-raiser every year, but the title is a bit misleading.

Contrary to the name, there wasn’t an empty seat or bowl at the annual events last Wednesday and Thursday.

“What makes this event great is that it’s all about the community coming together,” said Mary Alice Cohen, MRC programs and operations director.

Each year, nonprofits across the country host Empty Bowls events to raise money and awareness for food pantries. It’s the major fund-raiser for the MRC, which provides food, services and support to mountain area residents.

After a suggested minimum donation of $25, attendees could eat their share of soup and bread, and then bid on coveted items in the silent auction.    

“We couldn’t do any of this without the help of artists and the community,” said Lorye McLeod, chief executive officer for the MRC.

Empty Bowls was the first major event for McLeod since she took her position at MRC in August.

“It’s been a fabulous three months so far,” she said. “I’ve been getting the greatest sense of community here. The response we get when it’s time to help others, and the extent of that help, has been outstanding.”

Bids were stacked high at the silent auction, which featured wares from local artisans. Soups and silent-auction items were donated.

The only hard part of the Wednesday evening event in Conifer was deciding which soup to try first. Options included Creekside Cellars’ red pepper bisque, Cabin Creek’s red chili with beef and pork, and Zoka’s tomato artichoke.

Steve Brooks, owner of Brooks Place Tavern, served one of the more talked-about soups — chipotle pumpkin with whipped cream.

“It’s a great hearty, healthy soup,” Brooks said between filling attendees’ bowls.

The soup had the right amount of “kick,” and the whipped cream added sweetness and body.

“Ever since (Brooks Place) opened, we’ve always looked to help out our community,” Brooks said. “Anything for the Mountain Resource Center.”

Local musician Rex Rideout serenaded attendees as they sampled soups and talked with tablemates.

“I’ve had people tell me it’s better than last year,” said MRC board member Dan Imming. “Not only is this a chance to support the Mountain Resource Center, but it’s a great chance to catch up with friends and neighbors.”

Imming said that with the event being so close to Veterans Day, some attendees donated extra money so vets could eat for free.

“This is what it’s all about,” Imming said. “People helping people.”

Tables were full at the MRC, and mouths took a break from eating soup only to smile or engage in conversation.

“I like the pumpkin chipotle,” said Paul Landsittel. “There’s a chicken soup up there I want to try next.”

The two-day event spilled over to the Evergreen Lake House on Nov. 7.

Just before Thursday’s lunch at the Lake House in Evergreen, two dozen volunteers were busily getting everything ready for the hundreds who would partake of soup. The breads and desserts were ready, and servers stood behind slow-cookers filled with soup, including butternut squash soup from Pines Catering, beef chili from the Smiling Moose Deli, chicken noodle from In Good Taste, and clam chowder and chicken noodle from Hiwan Country Club.

“(This event) brings people together in a warm, caring way,” Cohen said as she made sure the registration table was ready for guests.

Per tradition, each attendee left with a bowl that was painted by a local artist or resident.

“We had over 600 bowls,” McLeod said.

Holly Simon, an MRC board member and chair of the Conifer event, estimated that the lunch and dinner were more successful compared with past years because word about the event reached more people.

What helped is that people painting bowls for the event could go to River Canyon Gallery in Bailey in addition to Go Paint! in Evergreen.

 “Tons of people have come out to support us this year,” said Karen Verdier, health services director at MRC. “Thanks to all the volunteers, artists and anonymous donors. It really goes a long way.”

For more information about the Mountain Resource Center, visit www.mrcco.org.

Contact Daniel Laverty at Daniel@evergreenco.comor at 303-350-1042. Follow him on Twitter at @LavertyReports.