Bailey Woolfstead, right, and her companion Garrett Dunbar examine the selection of ceramic and wood dishes on display at the annual Empty Bowls fundraiser on behalf of the Glory Hall at Centennial Hall on Sunday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Bailey Woolfstead, right, and her companion Garrett Dunbar examine the selection of ceramic and wood dishes on display at the annual Empty Bowls fundraiser on behalf of the Glory Hall at Centennial Hall on Sunday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Empty Bowls provides a full helping of fundraising for the Glory Hall

Annual soup event returns to Centennial Hall as need for homeless shelter’s services keeps growing.

Don Gotschall says one of his secrets for making an appetizing wooden soup bowl is dead beetles.

“I have to smuggle it in,” he said, adding he gets the wood from Oregon and British Columbia. “This beetle-killed pine is blue stripes — the beetles when they die they give it a blue tint.”

Gotschall, who retired as a hydropower engineer 39 years ago and says he now creates “art by accident,” was among a dozen named people (plus additional unnamed students from Thunder Mountain High School and the University of Alaska Southeast) crafting ceramic and wooden dishes for the Glory Hall’s annual Empty Bowls fundraiser on Sunday.

Some of the hundreds of wooden and ceramic bowls made by local residents for the annual Empty Bowls fundraiser are displayed on a table at Centennial Hall on Sunday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Some of the hundreds of wooden and ceramic bowls made by local residents for the annual Empty Bowls fundraiser are displayed on a table at Centennial Hall on Sunday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

The fundraiser, returning to the convention hall for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic, sold 210 tickets and raised an estimated $47,500, including sponsorships and other contributions including a silent auction, according to Glory Hall Executive Director Mariya Lovishchuk. It is the largest fundraising event of the year for the homeless shelter and soup kitchen, which has an estimated operating budget of slightly less than $1 million a year.

Gotschall said he made about ten bowls for this year’s fundraiser, which he and other members of the Tongass Turners woodworking group have created bowls for over the years. The wooden bowls were greatly outnumbered this year by ceramic dishes among the hundreds on display on tables outside the main ballroom where soup was being served — and perhaps because they were fewer in number, most were claimed early during the three-hour event.

But lest anyone worry about bowls with beetle remnants — or fingerprints or other remnants of being publicly picked over — the soup was served in disposal bowls while the keepsakes went home clean.

Homelessness in Juneau, as with many areas of the U.S., is a growing problem, which is particularly acute at present due to the lack of an officially designated local campground for the first time in many years. Municipal leaders are struggling to find an acceptable site due to rampant problems at Mill Campground last year and complaints by businesses owners near the cold weather emergency shelter that closed last week, where an adjacent lot had been proposed as a potential campsite.

Most people interviewed who paid $60 to attend the fundraiser — getting a take-home bowl, soups of their choice donated by several restaurants and homemade baked goods — said they were in some way directly affected by people in Juneau experiencing homelessness.

Bonnie Berg examines the dessert table at the Empty Bowls fundraiser at Centennial Hall on Sunday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Bonnie Berg examines the dessert table at the Empty Bowls fundraiser at Centennial Hall on Sunday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

“It’s honestly surprised me when I first moved here that people would even be sleeping rough on the streets just because winter is rough,” said Garrett Dunbar, who moved from Virginia to Juneau nearly six years ago. “It’s incredible that they live through it.”

While Dunbar picked out a ceramic bowl (“I like the blue color and I like how it’s kind of like a drip pattern on the outside”), his companion at the event, Bailey Woolfstead, picked out one of the wood dishes (“the graining on the wood is so beautiful and it’s so beautifully made”).

“I’m a local prosecutor and I work in a system where we unfortunately see a lot of people who are down on their luck, and I really support the Glory Hall and the work that they do,” she said.

The variety of bowls were suited to all appetites as well as artistic tastes, including large and deep dishes that could easily feed a couple, nearly flat wood creations barely able to hold a spoonful of broth, and crafty creations with handles to handle the heat or holes to place utensils such as chopsticks.

Willis Kirkpatrick serves soup to Jamie Quinto during the Empty Bowls fundraiser on behalf of the Glory Hall at Centennial Hall on Sunday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Willis Kirkpatrick serves soup to Jamie Quinto during the Empty Bowls fundraiser on behalf of the Glory Hall at Centennial Hall on Sunday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

“It’s just a blue and green one, but I like it because it has the holes in it,” said Jamie Quinto, describing her bowl after getting a serving of soup. “And it just like flows. I just like the way it like feels. It’s more personal than just a boring round one.”

She said she works at a store downtown so she encounters people experiencing homelessness regularly, as did her father when he worked as a police officer downtown for many years. Her sister, Kaia, is the deputy director of the Glory Hall, where she applied to work three years ago because of their father’s work.

“I just saw what he did and I really liked it, so I applied. And it’s obviously a huge issue,” Kaia Qunto said. “I mean we’re at 100% capacity all the time. We have waiting lists of people who want beds and rooms.”

Frank Felkl, Maya Breedlove, Meg Rosson and Meghan Johnson perform string quartet music during the Empty Bowls fundraiser on behalf of the Glory Hall at Centennial Hall on Sunday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

Frank Felkl, Maya Breedlove, Meg Rosson and Meghan Johnson perform string quartet music during the Empty Bowls fundraiser on behalf of the Glory Hall at Centennial Hall on Sunday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)

The goal is to raise between $45,000 and $55,000 at the event, so this year’s collection met the mark, Lovishchuk said. But she said attendance at the fundraiser may have been hampered because it was held in the afternoon — a holdover from when it was at the shelter’s parking lot during the pandemic — rather than its traditional evening hours when people are more inclined for a meal.

“We were organizing it and using all of our materials from last year, including the time,” she said. “And then on Thursday I woke up in the middle of the night and I was like ‘Oh no, Mariya, like what is wrong with you? It’s supposed to be five to seven.’ And by that point it was too late to change it, so next year it’s definitely going to be five to seven (in the evening).”

• Contact Mark Sabbatini at mark.sabbatini@juneauempire.com or (907) 957-2306.

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