Pictured are, from left, Cecilia Knight, Rita Mertens and Jane Mertens, volunteers and promoters of the Empty Bowls Fundraiser for MICA Food Pantry are shown with some of the ceramic bowls they made at the 2021 Jingle Bell Holiday. The bowls are sold for $20 with proceeds going to the local food pantry in its fight against hunger.
By J.O. Parker
Step into the Stew Markerspace on Broad Street in Grinnell and you might find someone in the open studio in the back of the building busy making ceramic bowls, lots of bowls.
And it is all for a good cause.
This is the fifth year that local artisans have joined forces and donated materials and time to make ceramic bowls for the Empty Bowls Fundraiser benefiting MICA (Mid Iowa Community Action) Food Pantry in its fight against hunger.
The Stew Markerspace offers a space for local artisans to gather and create. There is a wood shop, animation studio, 3D printing, ceramics studio and metal shop. The Stew is part of the Grinnell Arts Council and is located at 927 Broad St.
Jane Mertens of Grinnell said the local Empty Bowls Fundraiser is part of a larger movement across the United States to fight hunger. She learned of the fundraiser idea while taking college courses at Earlham College in Richmond, Ind.
“They (Earlham) did an Empty Bowls Fundraiser at the end of the each semester to raise money for the food bank of Indiana,” she said. “I thought we could use it here (in Grinnell) because at some point everyone could face hunger.”
Jane and her sister, Rita Mertens, and mother, Cecilia Knight, spearhead the Empty Bowls project and are among 20 plus volunteers and local artisans who create the ceramic bowls throughout the year in preparation for Jingle Bell Holiday.
All bowls are $20. Proceeds from the Empty Bowls Fundraiser nets anywhere from $2,000 - $4,000 each year for MICA.
“We have grown each year,” said Jane. “It is really important at this time of the year to be thinking of others.”
Bowls will be available at multiple locations during Jingle Bell Holiday on Friday, Nov. 18 and will remain on sale at the Grinnell Arts Center through Dec. 17.
Available locations during Jingle Bell Holiday
• Winter Farmers Market (Hotel Grinnell) on Friday, Nov. 18 from 5 – 8 p.m. and Saturday, Nov. 19 from 10 a.m. – 12 p.m.
• Relish (Iowa Kitchen) at 834 Park St., 5 - 8 p.m. (soup is available for $5 plus the cost of the bowl with proceeds to the Iowa Kitchen). Proceeds of the sale of soup will be used to fight hunger and offer nutritional classes at the Iowa Kitchen.
• St. Mary’s Catholic Church, 1002 Broad St., 5 – 8 p.m. during Jingle Bell Holiday. The church will have chili and corn chowder for $10 ($2 off with bowl purchase) with proceeds going to local charities.
• Bowls will also be available at the Grinnell Arts Center, 926 Broad St., during Jingle Bell Holiday at local artist events through Dec. 17. Days and hours are for the GAC are Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, noon – 5:30 p.m. and Saturdays, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. For more information, visit www.grinnellarts.org.
“They make great gifts,” added Jane. “A lot of people will use this fundraiser to give holiday presents to family and friends while also giving back to the community.”
Pictured are, from left, Jane Mertens, Rita Mertens, Cecilia Knight and Barbara Ashby, who make ceramic bowls for the MICA food pantry fundraiser. They are shown with some of the 225 bowls being sold this year starting during the 2022 Jingle Bell Holiday on Nov. 18. Submitted photo.
Some of the handmade ceramic bowls made by volunteers at the Stew Markerspace being offered starting with Grinnell’s Jingle Bell Holiday on Friday, Nov. 18 through Dec. 17. Proceeds from the sale of the bowls go to the MICA Food Pantry in Grinnell. Submitted photo.