Teamwork makes the dream work
Supporting Helping Hands
What a privilege it is to be a part of the Empty Bowls Project, the largest fundraiser of the year for the Helping Hands food pantry! The Empty Bowls Project raises more than 60% of Helping Hands' annual budget.
While a rather small group of people plan the event, it’s the collection of volunteers that make it happen! The Empty Bowls Project easily draws volunteers who wish to be a part of a family-fun experience and give their time and energy in support of Helping Hands. With more than 100 adults and youth rallying together on the day of the event, there is an energetic, happy group of teams that come together to create a well-oiled machine.
So, how does it really work?
Behind the Scenes
To kick-off the fundraiser, held the first Sunday of November, the foremost mission is seeking sponsors. Did you know that there are almost 200 sponsors each year? And how grateful we are for them! Our sponsors donate generously to the cause and feel a deep connection to the project. Without sponsors' financial assistance, it would not be possible to have a successful Empty Bowls Project!
As sponsor money thankfully arrives, a team is out and about in the summer months collecting around 1,500 bowls from a minimum of 18 potters who give of their time and creativity to provide beautiful hand made bowls. The 50+ boxes of bowls are categorized and delivered to the event location where they are smartly arranged to showcase the potters' talents.
The night before the event, a mighty team collects thirty 5-gallon food grade buckets of soup from Dripping Springs, Wimberley and Austin area restaurants...sometimes in the wee hours of the morning as chefs are closing their doors. As a big thank you for their donation, restaurants receive free advertising, a handsome box of scrumptious, personalized cookies made by Well Yeah Cakes and an engraved wooden soup spoon as a special reminder that Helping Hands appreciates our chefs!
You may be wondering...how are all those soups kept refrigerated overnight? The Barbershop Bar on Mercer Street graciously allows us to store the soups overnight in their walk-in cooler. In the early morning on the day of the event, the hefty soup buckets are transported in a trailer by another team...whew, lots of heavy lifting! When the soups arrive at Dripping Springs Ranch Park, another group organizes the soups by type.
By now, Broadway Bank has collected 3,000+ cookies made by friends of Helping Hands that answers the "sweet tooth" call after their bowl of soup is gone. In addition, a truck full of a variety of breads and pastries donated by Central Market, after being picked up the night before after closure, have been unloaded and the kitchen team puts their hands to work slicing and arranging for a lovely presentation. Now the show is about to begin! But wait...there is sweet tea from Chicken Express and coffee from Austin Java and a variety of craft beer provided by Bell Springs Brewing Company! The dining tables look lovely with decor from The Flower Girl, Kari Shelton and extra tables and chairs donated by Premiere Events. We know it's about time to open the doors when the musicians gear up their instruments to entertain our patrons with energetic, live music.
Many of our patrons arrive early to select their favorite bowl(s), sometimes spending half an hour happily going from table to table while mingling with friends. Sometimes even selecting as many as 10 bowls to give as holiday presents. After making their choice(s), off they go to have their bowls pre-washed by a team of Dripping Springs and Wimberley Girl Scouts armed with properly sanitized soap and water and then dried with dish towels.
Our patrons then make their way into the event room to select from a variety of mouth-watering soups to fill their bowls. While Girl Scouts serve cookies and breads (hey, click here for a delicious pumpkin bread recipe from the Girl Scouts) to patrons, a civic group works diligently behind the scenes to scrape and wash dozens of big empty stew pots. (Not the most sought after job for sure, but necessary!) And then the pièce de résistance, the patrons take their chosen bowl(s) home with them!
It's magical to walk the event room and appreciate the liveliness of the community that has come together to support Helping Hands. So many smiles, so much laughter and volunteers high-fiving each other!
At the end of the day, when the floors are swept and trash is hauled out, we realize that the more teams of volunteers we include, the stronger and more joyful the feeling of community really is. Because at the end of the day, it's all for the benefit of our neighbors in need.
Sadly, we will miss the privilege of working alongside our teams in 2020, but in 2021, the Empty Bowls Project will be back in-person, stronger and better than ever!
You can donate by mailing a check to Helping Hands at:
P.O. Box 804
Dripping Springs, Texas 78620