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Published: Wednesday, 1/30/2008

Artists try to fill stomachs of poor with Empty Bowls in Lenawee County


ADRIAN - The local Salvation Army unit had nearly a 50 percent increase in requests for assistance during the holiday season, a sign that Lenawee County is feeling the effects of Michigan's struggling economy.

Captain Gordon Knight, the nonprofit's local director, said 470 families were given toys, food baskets, and necessities through the Salvation Army programs. That compares with 300 families who were provided with similar assistance in 2006.

"Lenawee County has been hit with a loss of jobs," he said. "We have seen the need for assistance.

"Some of the clients we are seeing for the first time."

Pi Benio, a longtime Adrian College art professor, organized an "Empty Bowls Benefit" to raise money for the organization's community meals program.

A $10 donation will buy a hand-thrown ceramic bowl filled with chicken noodle soup or vegetarian chili, plus a roll.

The meals were to be sold yesterday in Caine Student Union at the college.

The last chance to pick up a bowl will be Monday at 6:30 p.m. at ZZ's Restaurant at the Lenawee Rec Center, 520 College Ave.

LeeAnn Dodde, a teaching assistant in the ceramics studio, said the art department is hoping to raise $2,000 for the meal program.

More than 225 pottery bowls have been made for the project. Many were created by Ms. Benio and teaching assistants in the college's art department.

Other bowls came from elementary and middle school children, as well as some area residents, who donated pieces they made in the weekend art program and community clay classes.

The art department also offered pottery throwing lessons earlier this month in exchange for bringing nonperishable food items that went to the Salvation Army pantry. For a $10 donation, participants got their piece finished and fired.

John Hartom, an art teacher in Oxford, Mich., started the Empty Bowl program in 1990 to help his students raise money for a food drive.

Sodexho, the food and facilities management service on campus, and Lenawee Rec Center donated the soup and chili.

Contact Mark Reiter at


or 734-241-3610.

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