Saturday, March 14, 2009

Empty Bowl

Last Saturday I went downtown to the Egan Center to experience the 15th anniversary Empty Bowl benefit for Beans Cafe. Beans Cafe provides meals and resources for the needy, and the Empty Bowl is one of their big fund raisers. Tickets were $18, and for that you receive a homemade pottery bowl and an all-you-can-eat lunch of soup and cornbread. There was also a silent auction for some nicer and more ambitious pottery pieces, as well as T-shirts and dried bean soup mix packs, although sadly I did not know that this would be the case so I didn't bring any extra money. It was also an educational experience, as the staff of Beans Cafe was on hand to explain what their organization was all about, and the good they do with the funds they raise. They are not a shelter, but they do feed many Alaskans in need.
One thing I have found is an interesting is that people here give generously to homeless shelters and other resource organizations for the needy, but they will not give any money whatsoever to panhandlers. (Obviously, this is not true of every single Alaskan - but no one I know does.) Now, I work with some extremely tenderhearted, generous people, and they are unanimous on this conviction: If you give a panhandler money, it will go to the nearest liquor store or else it will go in their arm. If you give money or food or clothing to a shelter, it will give the needy what they actually need. And it's hard to argue with this logic. They are all extremely generous, but in a very practical way that should probably be the gold standard. It follows that charity events like Empty Bowl are very popular. I only found out about this event the day before it happened, and I was kicking myself for not getting a chance to blog about it before it happened. That was until I got to the Egan Center. I got there half an hour before the door opened, and the line snaked up the front of the building and back down again. They were doing fine on the attendance front.
The soup and cornbread were good, basic food. They served a bean and corn chowder and a chili. As a culinary experience, the food was kind of besides the point. However, the availability of the food was very much the point, and I have to say I didn't see a lot of people gorging themselves on the all-you-can eat feed.

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