Samaritan Center bowled over by soup-er duper support

[Photo: Kaila Jones]

For almost three decades, venues around Vero Beach have overflowed with bubbling vats of soup donated by local restaurants, individuals and businesses on the first Thursday in November. This year, the Samaritan Center needed to try out a new recipe for its 28th annual Soup Bowl, sans soup, calling the event Empty Bowls – Full Hearts.

The bowls may have been empty, but the outpouring of community support will help strengthen the lives of families who receive services and assistance from the Samaritan Center. A program of Catholic Charities, they provide homeless families in Indian River County with transitional housing in a safe, nurturing environment, and guidance to prepare them for independent living.

“The work that is done at the Samaritan Center is incredibly important,” said Catalina Pines, Samaritan Center board member. “We need to be able to help families to get back on their feet.”

Indian River Clay stepped up in a big way this year, ensuring that tables at the Heritage Center were filled with more than 1,200 handmade bowls, lovingly created by 40 artists. Artists worked day and night for two months to churn out the eclectic selection of functional art. Longtime collectors flocked to the sale early in the day, hoping to add another bowl or two to their collections.

“If you do something to help someone else, it lifts you up, and it lifts the whole community up,” said Renee Bireley, program development & relationship manager.

Proceeds from the Soup Bowl support operating expenses, 75 percent of which comes from private donations, grants, foundations and two signature fundraisers, explained Bireley.

“The Soup Bowl traditionally is about 55 percent of that. Our goal was to raise at least 50 percent of what we made last year. We’re going to exceed our goal.”

“This is a natural partnership,” said Maria Sparsis, Indian River Clay board chair, while giving a live wheel demonstration. “Part of our charter is to contribute. From a potter’s perspective, there is nothing more personal than a bowl.”

More than 900 of the bowls were sold on Thursday. One lucky raffle winner took home the tureen handcrafted by Rae Marie Crisel, along with $750 worth of gift certificates from area restaurants and businesses.

Bireley noted that several longtime location participants hosted small Soup Bowls of their own, and some parishioners made and sold soup. There was also a virtual Soup Bowl and another where cans of soup were paired with donations for the Samaritan Center, with the soup going to the Salvation Army Soup Pantry.

“People got creative and did what they could. They understand that the need is still great,” she added.

For those who missed out, the Samaritan Center is planning to hold an Open House (date TBD) where the remaining bowls can be purchased. Information will be posted on the Samaritan Center Soup Bowl Facebook page.

Photos by: Kaila Jones
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