Annual fundraiser celebrates 20 years of battling hunger
“In Dripping Springs, you get asked once a week to help out with one charity or another,” says Kristi Greene, co-chair of the Dripping Springs Empty Bowls Project, an annual fundraiser aimed at supporting individuals within the community who face hunger on a daily basis. “We never have trouble getting enough volunteers for this event,” adds fellow co-chair June Baumoel.
The Empty Bowls Project, a “grassroots movement to end hunger,” is a national program started by the nonprofit group Imagine/RENDER. The movement encourages cities to organize annual events that educate and empower people to help their neighbors battle hunger.
Bill and Bridget Hauser brought the Empty Bowls Project to Dripping Springs in 1997. In the early years, they planned every detail, cooked all of the soups, handcrafted hundreds of bowls, and hosted the event in their shop, Sunset Canyon Pottery. Gradually, other community leaders came on board, such as restaurant owners Emmett and Lisa Fox, to enhance the event as it continued to grow.
Guests pay $25 for soup, bread, dessert, and a ceramic bowl, which can be taken home as a reminder that some people’s bowls are empty more often than not. All proceeds are donated to Dripping Springs Helping Hands, a nonprofit formed 31 years ago.
In 2009, the Hausers offered the program’s reins to Kristi, who had been volunteering in Helping Hands’ food pantry for several years. “How could I say no?” Kristi asks. “It’s such a great cause. I thought I’d do my part for a few years and move on, but this was just something that I never could move on from.”
Kristi quickly brought June on board, and together they built the already-successful event into one that now funds more than 60% of Helping Hands’ annual operating budget. This funding has allowed the nonprofit to stock its food pantry with healthier offerings like fresh produce, meat, eggs, and dairy and to expand their financial assistance program to help families get back on their feet after crises.
The Hausers continued to provide roughly 1,000 bowls every year through 2016, when they announced their retirement. “It’s been a scary thing to try to gather 1,200 bowls without Bill and Bridget,” says Kristi. “The event wouldn’t have made it this long without them.”
“They were the backbone of this project,” June agrees, adding that she and Kristi have been making arrangements with local potters, chefs, and musicians since January to ensure they will have enough bowls, soups, and entertainment for what they expect to be their biggest turnout yet.
The 2017 event, scheduled for October 29th at 11 A.M., marks the Dripping Springs Empty Bowls Project’s 20th anniversary. Last year’s attendance nearly burst the Mercer Street Dancehall’s seams, so the Empty Bowls Project committee decided to move the 2017 event to Dripping Springs Ranch Park. Though a little farther off the main track, the expanded venue will allow for increased patron parking and eliminate rain concerns.
“There were people who waited in line for over an hour in the last few years, and it’s just an amazing thing that people were willing to do that,” says Kristi. “Everyone wants to help. Everyone wants to be a part of this.”
For local event updates, check the Dripping Springs Empty Bowls Project’s Facebook page. Contact Kristi (email@example.com; 512-296-8895) or June (firstname.lastname@example.org; 512-858-6110) to learn more about volunteering, donating, and sponsorship opportunities.