GIving Back With Purpose


National Art Honor Society members package up the bowls for the Empty Bowl event held at Hempfield High School each year.

Many Americans take their lives for granted and do not realize out of the 7.6 billion people on earth, nearly 800 million do not have enough food to keep them healthy.  To put that into perspective, about 1 in 9 people are suffering from hunger each day.

The Westmoreland County Food Bank partners with the Empty Bowl Fundraiser to bring awareness to how many people are battling hunger locally as well as nationwide.  Empty Bowl is an annual luncheon open to anyone that provides a simple meal to symbolize a typical meal for someone struggling. The food bank relies heavily on the donations from this event to keep thriving.  The food bank continues to distribute 8,641,849 meals each year to those struggling with hunger.

The idea of the fundraiser was derived by North Huntington native Karen Piper while she was awaiting a heart transplant.  This was Karen’s way to give back to her community, which was one of the most important things to her. Her son Tim is co-director of the event committee alongside Crystal Szogi.

Those in attendance of the fundraiser donate $15, which includes a bowl of soup, bread, cookies, and a handcrafted ceramic bowl of their choice to take home.  “Most of the students just learned how to throw and trim on the wheel when making the bowls so most of their uniqueness came with the glazing,” said Amy Balko.  “This is the 10th year Greater Latrobe has contributed since Piper reached out to me and this year we donated 55 bowls.”

The soup and bread help in nourishing the needs of Westmoreland County residents.  The food is donated and made by over 30 different local restaurants and bakeries with a wide selection of soups from the traditional chicken noodle soup to one of a kind soups like pasta fagioli and a coconut-based vegetarian soup.

Each bowl is hand-crafted and donated by artists, students in high school, and community members from around the area.  Art students in local school districts such as Greater Latrobe, Greensburg Central Catholic, Norwin, Penn Trafford, Ligonier Valley, Mount Pleasant, and Yough made the bowls in art classes.  Members of St. Vincent College, The Crafty Shack, and Piperquinn Ceramics also contributed to constructing the pottery. “I showed my creativity through the glazing because I marbled it,” said Senior Cayla Cosner.

The concept of taking home an empty bowl is a reminder of the emptiness families face when others are eating their day to day meals.

The students at Greater Latrobe were practicing the skills needed to construct a bowl while giving back.  “I like having the students be a part of something bigger than themselves,” said Balko. “It’s a great cause helping out the Westmoreland Food Bank.”

“I wanted to contribute to this project because I think it’s a good way to help and educate the community,” said Cosner.

This year’s Empty Bowl luncheon marked the 11th year of it and was held on March 3 at Hempfield High School.  It featured a Chinese Auction, raffles, 50/50 drawing, and most importantly offered a time to meet new people in the Westmoreland community.

Over the past 10 years, the event has raised over $145,000 for the food bank.  Each year, nearly 100 people of all ages volunteer their time to serve on average 1,000 people from across the county.

Taking part in this event is a simple way to give back to your community as you are lightening the burdens of others.  As a participant, it is not only about the donation, but the difference you are making in someone else’s life.