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Chester County Press

KACS to hold 12th annual Empty Bowls event on Feb. 24

02/14/2023 03:14PM ● By Richard Gaw

Photo by Richard L. Gaw             Rep. Christina Sappey joined a group of volunteers from Kennett Area Community Service and Centered Clay Studio in Kennett Square on Feb. 10 to create clay bowls that will be distributed at the 12th annual Empty Bowls event on Feb. 24.

By Richard L. Gaw, Staff Writer

The truth is often the most bitter pill to get down.

When Kennett Area Community Service (KACS) Executive Director Leah Reynolds spoke at the organization’s annual Empty Bowls fundraiser in February of 2020, she told the audience that 550 community households were using the services of the KACS Food Cupboard every month.

When Reynolds speaks to the audience who attends KACS’ 12th annual Empty Bowls event on Feb. 24, she will inform them that 550 has grown to 748 and shows very little signs that it will ever decrease.

Sharp against these alarming statistics and in the growing reality that reports a surge in homelessness in Chester County, the importance of the agency’s largest fundraiser is not lost on Reynolds.

“The Empty Bowls concept is the best metaphorical way to teach the community that we have hunger here – that we have food insecurity here – that there are families that go to sleep without food,” she said. “It’s a metaphor for a conversation that is often hidden and quiet.”

Hosted by St. Michael Lutheran Church in Unionville, the proceeds from the event will go directly to help fund several components of KACS’ mission that includes providing healthy and nutritious food to over 2,000 individuals a month, providing case management services from the agency’s Emergency Assistance team, and offering workshops like Bridges Out of Poverty that supports those who are working their way out of poverty and finding long-term stability.

Founded in 1990 by Michigan art teachers Lisa Blackburn and John Hartom, Empty Bowls – now an internationally-known fundraiser not only assists food-related charities around the world, it allows wood turners, glassblowers, fiber artists, metal smiths, painters, sculptors and volunteers to create distinctive bowls for the event. In preparation for the upcoming event, 350 bowls are being made by ceramics students in the Kennett and Unionville-Chadds Ford school districts, pottery students from the Kennett Area YMCA, and 50 bowls by volunteer artisans at Centered Clay Studio in Kennett Square, who are contributing clay bowls.

 While the lunch session is sold out, limited seating remains for in-person dinner that begins at 6 p.m. and includes a light meal of soup, salad, bread, dessert and a handmade bowl. For those participants looking to grab-and-go, they can order take-out meals for pick-up between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m., and will also include a handmade bowl.

With a sponsorship goal of $70,000, KACS is also seeking additional supporters at several sponsorship levels ranging from $250 to $5,000.

While the proceeds from this year’s Empty Bowls will allow KACS to help pay for crucial services for the immediate future, it will be a welcome but small dent in the rising costs needed for the agency to support an entire underserved and often neglected community whose numbers show no signs of reversing. In its last fiscal year from Oct. 2021 to Oct. 2022, KACS provided crisis support, housing and access to food for 1,648 households – nearly 5,000 individuals – throughout southern Chester County.

Several factors are contributing to the surge in the community’s need for KACS’ services: the continuingly adverse affects of a pandemic; severe weather incidents that have devastated homes and apartments and left residents homeless; the rising cost of living; and the fluctuating, post-COVID-19 economy that continues to affect the job market. 

The annual event, Reynolds said, is a forum that illuminates the truth of what has become a crisis.

“When we have Empty Bowls, we drive this reality forward through these facts, and also use art to help tell the story as well,” she said. “We have had years of social groups and school districts become a part of something that is important, because everyone can relate to being hungry, to the feeling of what happens when one’s stomach growls.

“This event wakes up people’s humanity, and while it informs attendees about the issue of food insecurity, it also allows us to celebrate this greater community that comes together that makes the bowls, becomes a sponsor and attends the event. This is the ripple effect of a conversation that needs to become louder and one that more people need to hear.”

Tickets for KACS’ Empty Bowls event are $35 per person. For more information and to obtain tickets, contact 610-925-3356, x. 123, email [email protected], or visit

St. Michael Lutheran Church is located at 109 East Doe Road, Unionville, Pa. 19375.

To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected].