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Enjoy San Joaquin Valley Living

Visalia Rescue Mission: Empty Bowls Event

Jan 25, 2015 10:55AM ● By Brandi Barnett

Feed the Soul

February 2015
By Fache Desrochers
Photos: Forrest Cavale

Of all the virtues of humankind, generosity and the art of giving are perhaps among the most profoundly effective; in addition to directly benefiting another person, the act of generosity nourishes the soul of the giver. As Winston Churchill said, “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” At the Visalia Rescue Mission, this philosophy is in full effect every day of the year, as its members and their supporters tirelessly pool their time, efforts and resources with the express purpose of rebuilding people’s lives through the power of giving.
A wholly local organization, the Visalia Rescue Mission is a particularly effective vehicle for changing lives in the community, as all profits from its fundraisers, thrift stores, donations and other efforts go directly back to the homeless men, women and children they serve with programs, shelters and meals. “We are a private organization, so we don’t receive much government funding, but we are strong because we are so supported by the community,” explains Director of Development Jessica Cavale. “We could not be more grateful to the area for their amazing support of what we do day to day, which is to transform people’s lives.”
The Visalia Rescue Mission is involved with a myriad of events and fundraising efforts all year long, but one of the most popular is the upcoming Empty Bowls event, which will happen on the evening of February 24 at the Rescue Mission’s community center. This event is part of a global, grassroots effort to fight hunger. The philosophy of the Empty Bowls Project is simple but profound: local artisans create handcrafted bowls, and guests from the community are invited to a delicious soup dinner. In exchange for a cash donation, guests are asked to keep a bowl as a reminder of all the empty bowls in the world. Each participating community donates the money raised to a local organization that works to end hunger in their area.
This year marks the sixth anniversary of the Visalia Rescue Mission’s involvement, which began when local dairy nutrition company Nutrius decided that in lieu of its usual large Christmas party, it would prefer to use those funds to benefit the community. So Nutrius approached the Rescue Mission, and the first Empty Bowls event came together. Over the years, this occasion has grown in popularity and size, and now the event is sponsored by five dairy nutrition companies and supplied with the finest catering Visalia has to offer. Celebrated local chef David Vartanian has been a longtime participant, taking charge of the main course with four or five different soups of his own creation. Local favorite Pita Kabob has also been a big supporter for the past several years, balancing out the soup selection with hummus, pita bread and appetizers. “The gracious participation that we receive is amazing,” Cavale says. “Apart from the incredible support that we have with the meal itself, the individuals in this area show so much interest and generosity. It’s a $30 suggested donation for the event ticket (which includes the meal and artisan bowl), but very often people give so much more, and all the proceeds go directly back to the Mission. It’s kind of wonderfully mind-blowing.”
In addition to an excellent meal, the Empty Bowls event provides patrons with a window into the lives of the individuals that the Rescue Mission serves. “People come to the event, they pick out their bowl and they actually
walk through the line and into our kitchen just like one of our Mission guests would,” says Cavale. “It’s a very family-oriented event, and it’s amazing to have people of all ages come to our property and experience a connection to what our program guests’ lives are like.” The Empty Bowls event also features live music and a testimony from an individual who has been through one of the Rescue Mission’s programs, and how it has changed his or her life.
When you fill your beautiful artisan bowl, know that you are feeding not only your body with wonderful local cuisine, but you are also feeding both your soul and your community with the wonderful power of giving.

Empty Bowls • February 24, 5:30 pm
Visalia Rescue Mission’s community center, 741 N. Santa Fe St.
Tickets available at the Simply Chic Boutique in downtown Visalia, at the Visalia Rescue Mission administrative office or through the Mission’s website • Find the mission on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and Vimeo