Bedford High serves soup and bread during Empty Bowls fundraiser

Bedford High School presented to the community on Thursday night, Nov. 14, its first-ever Empty Bowls event, a benefit that will help fund the school’s art department and supply a hefty donation to New Horizons for New Hampshire, a Manchester soup kitchen that daily serves around 268 meals.

The steamy soup and warm bread served at Bedford High’s Empty Bowls event in the school’s Commons was freshly made and donated by six local businesses – T-Bones Great American Eatery, Shorty’s Mexican Roadhouse, Weathervane Seafood Restaurant, Olive Garden, Panera Bread and Harvest Market.

It was the soup bowls that drew oohs and ahhs. More than 100 bowls were made available that evening for a $10 donation. They were ceramic works of art meant to be taken home by purchasers as keepsakes of the event and reminders of the empty bowls of the hungry around the world and those nearer to home.

A nonprofit Empty Bowls organization, established in the early ’90s, set the seed of helping to fight hunger on a grassroots level through the hosting of a simple supper of bread and soup spooned from bowls made by craftsmen. A multitude of Empty Bowls events take place every year.

The colorful bowls at the high school were rendered by students on the Empty Bowls Committee, a group of student volunteers from every grade level. Teacher Anne Lederhos advised the group as it completed bowl after bowl.

The students produced masterpieces. The bowls originated from moist lumps of pottery clay, shaped and refined by the students on one of three potters’ wheels gracing the art room on the first floor of the school. Each student took a number of turns at the steadily spinning wheel. Each became adept at coaxing with wetted hands the sticky clay into rounded shapes deep enough and wide enough to hold more than one cup of soup – chicken noodle, broccoli cheese, clam chowder and other varieties.

The collection of bowls grew as each ceramic reservoir was fired in an kiln that reaches temperatures of up to 1,400 degrees. The next step was to let the bowls cool. It was up to each student to decide on the bowls’ decorations. Some bowls were painted one color with a splash of contrasting color applied at the brim. Other bowls bore stripes, zigzags, polka dots or scalloped edges. Others sported images of a bulldog – mascot of the school’s football team.

When a finishing glaze was applied in either a matte or a shiny finish, the bowls were nearly ready for the event. Each was inspected, washed, dried and gently stacked in a tray for transport to the cafeteria area of the Commons.

Tim Pratte, 16, a sophomore, said he glazed one of his favorite bowls with three coats of black, then sponged on a turquoise overlay. Olivia Ouellet, 14, a freshman, said she enjoyed making a bowl that had a dark blue glaze as an undercoat and a sponge-applied black color on top. Nathan Ouellet, 15, a sophomore, created a two-toned bowl by dipping half of it into some blue and the other half into a white glaze.

Others applied special touches as the project progressed. The bowls were in the good hands of the committee, a group formed of the two Ouellets – a brother and sister team – and sophomore Tim Pratte, 16, along with freshman Deanna Appleby, 15, freshman Elise Murphy, 14, freshman Emily Lussier, 14, junior Lauren Spendley, 16, senior Monica Hersher, 17, and senior Lydia Lawrence, 17.

Art teacher Lederhos said that the Empty Bowls Committee was comprised of students with an interest in community service. She said not all of the students were taking art courses on a regular basis. Some joined the group to learn something new and some wanted to be a part of the spirit of sharing that Empty Bowls project showcased.

“It was nice that they were here doing good things for others,” Lederhos said. “They’ve learned some new skills and they’ve had a good experience.”

Monica Hersher, 17, a senior, was the student coordinator for the Empty Bowls project. Senior Lydia Lawrence, 17, helped organize the event as a part of her Creativity, Action and Service project, a segment of her pursuit of an International Baccalaureate diploma.

“We hope we will have around $900 to $1,000 for New Horizon Soup Kitchen in Manchester,” Hersher said early in the week.

Art teachers Lederhos, Catherine Tuttle, Shannon Hogan and Auburn Hall, an intern from the New Hampshire Institute of Art, served the soup and bread. People bought bowls and held them out to be filled.

Linda Parnass, of Bow, her daughter, Katie Anderson, of Bow, and Anderson’s baby girl, Carly, 20 months old, were among the participants. Carly pointed to the chicken noodle soup as the three went through the cafeteria line, indicating her choice.

“Meme” Parnass is the grandmother of Carly. Carly’s mom, Katie Anderson, is the school’s chemistry teacher, a first-year instructor with more than 100 students in five classes.

Anderson said, “The kids did a great job with this event.”

Parnass added, “The bowls are beautiful.”

Lederhos proclaimed the event a success when the goal set by the Empty Bowls Committee had been surpassed, with 107 tickets sold. The donation of $10 per ticket rallied more than the $1,000 the group anticipated.

Many in the crowd, fortified with soup and bread, made their way down the hall to the high school’s theater to enjoy opening night of Bedford High’s stage production of “Legally Blonde, The Musical.” The last of the shows are scheduled for 7 p.m., today and Saturday, Nov. 23.

Tickets will be available at the door 40 minutes before each show. Soup will not be available.

For more information on BHS Empty Bowls 2013, call the school at 310-9000.