From the potters who make the bowls, to the cooks who fill them, the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank's Soup Supper and Auction is a community volunteer effort, from start to finish.
"It's a great way to give back to the community," said Peggy Moore, director of the food bank. "It's a not high pressure kind of event. Kids are welcome, no alcohol is served, it's just kind of a casual, fun evening. The community really gets behind it."
This year's supper and auction, the sixth, will be Friday starting at 5:30 p.m. at the Central Peninsula Sports Center. For $25, people going to the event will enjoy musical entertainment, several auctions and homemade soups served in handmade ceramic bowls.
For many, the bowls are the big draw of the event. For the price of the admission ticket, patrons get to select a bowl made by local artists to eat their soup in and take home with them at the end of the night.
This year the majority of the bowls, 200, were made by about 15 members of the Kenai Potters Guild, located in the Kenai Fine Arts Center. The rest were donated by Lisa Wood, a potter from Homer.
"They just do a fantastic job and the bowls are gorgeous," said Peggy Moore, director of the food bank.
The only drawback to this system is forcing people to choose which bowl they like the most.
"You will not find two bowls exactly alike," said Carol Walkiewicz, co-president of the guild. "There is a real variety of bowls. It's very diversified."
Each potter had free rein to design their bowls however they pleased. The result is a variety of shapes, sizes, designs, colors and glazes. Some potters decided to make sets of bowls, in case some patrons wanted to collaborate in their choices.
Others designed individualized bowls that could be used as decorative signature pieces.
They range in shapes and sizes, further adding to the diversity. Each bowl speaks to the habits and techniques of each potter. Some contributed more than one piece, including Walkiewicz, who made 40, while others donated three or four.
Walkiewicz said she enjoys using glazes and designs on her pieces.
"Others like using colors and stripes and the actual shape of the bowl will be different," she said. "Some people carve on their bowls. Some do designs gouged in them. It's quite interesting and fun to see all the bowls laid out."
Each bowl donated by the guild was fired in a high-fire gas kiln, which means they are dishwasher, oven and microwave safe, Walkiewicz said. None of the bowls contain lead glaze, so they are safe to eat from.
Any potter who donated a bowl received a free ticket to the event, which gives the artists a chance to see how their handiwork is received.
"I never take a bowl -- I have my own, thank you -- but it is nice to hear the feedback," Walkiewicz said. "Like 'Oh, I like this or I don't like this.' It's always fun for any artist to hear the feedback."
The free critiques and free dinner are the only compensation the potters receive for their weeks of effort. The entire process to make one bowl, from throwing it to firing and cooling it, takes anywhere from four to six weeks. The bowls must be thrown, shaped, trimmed and glazed as well as go through cycles of drying, firing and cooling. Some guild artists began work on their bowls in the spring.
"I really have to applaud all the potters who have taken part in this, it really is a lot of effort and time out of their lives donated for the community," Walkiewicz said. "They get absolutely nothing out of this other than feeling good about helping the food bank. I think that really shows a lot about how people feel about the community. It shows the tightness of our community and the helpfulness."
Bowls pictured are left over from last year's Soup Supper and Auction event. They were created by the Kenai Art Guild, the Ceramics Center and Lisa Wood of Homer.
Once patrons select their bowl, it will be filled with homemade soup from another group of volunteers. One soup on the menu is "Linda Kendall's Fabulous Halibut Chowder." Made by Kendall, the chowder contains cream cheese and has been a favorite of previous events.
"Believe me, it goes fast," Moore said.
Other offerings will be "Cheryl and Brenda's Garden Vegetable," and a beef stew made by Carrol Martin using vegetables from Martin's garden and beef from this year's 4-H grand champion steer from the Ninilchik Fair, bought and donated by Udelhoven Oilfield System Services.
Breads and dessert will be provided by The Moose Is Loose bakery. Musical entertainment will be provided by Dave Unruh. During dinner, there will be a host of "celebrity servers" who will help with the auctions and keep water glasses full, including Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Dale Bagley, Rep. Mike Chenault, Rep. Ken Lancaster, Kenai Mayor John Williams, Soldotna Mayor Dave Carey, borough assembly member Pete Sprague, Soldotna council member Jane Stein, Kenai council member Linda Swarner, Hal Smalley and Tom Wagoner.
During and after dinner, there will be plenty of auction action to keep patrons entertained.
"We have a real variety of items," Moore said. "There is literally something for everyone."
A silent and outcry auction will happen during the event, with a wide variety of items donated by area people and businesses. During dinner, the celebrity servers will hold a soup can auction.
Patrons can buy a can of soup for $20, which will have a number written on the bottom. Each number will correspond to a grab bag of donated items and gift certificates. No bag is worth less than $20, Moore said.
An additional auction will be the soup bowl auction, where patrons can buy a ticket for $1, or 12 for $10, and put it in one of several bowls in front of grab bags. At the end of the night, one ticket will be drawn from each bowl, and the ticket holder will get the bag.
The food bank has been selling raffle tickets for $10 for two round trip tickets to Hawaii. The raffle drawing will be held Friday as well.
The event has grown in both size and success since the first one held. This year 250 admission tickets are being sold. The first dinners were held at the food bank, which didn't have enough room. Two years ago the event was moved to the conference area at the Central Peninsula Sports Center, which creates more space and a better atmosphere. The dinner continues to be hampered by space constraints, but does generate much needed funds for the food bank's operations. Last year the fund-raiser, the second biggest the food bank holds each year, grossed $21,000, Moore said.
"It's critical," Moore said about the importance of the fund-raiser. "There's no ifs ands or buts about it. A lot of people think the food bank gets government support. But we're completely, entirely supported by the community. So any fund-raiser we have is completely important to us."
The supper and auction is particularly helpful because food bank funds typically run short after the summer, Moore said.
The money raised from the event goes toward operating capital, which is hard to come by since most monetary donations are designated for the soup kitchen or other specific programs the food bank operates.
"It's not glamorous, but it takes money to cover the building and pay the employees and truck drivers and insurance and everything that goes along with it," Moore said.
A few tickets are still available for the event, for $25 each. For tickets or more information, call the food bank at 262-3111 or board members Gloria Wisecarver at 262-7711 or Gwen Preston at 283-6735.
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