Orono Gives a Helping Hand at Community Outreach

In the Empty Bowls/Wellness Expo event this year, kids of all different ages and abilities in the Orono School district enjoyed the process of creating meaningful bowls and watching the direct impact they had on the community as the bowls yield profits for nonprofit organizations.

According to the international Kids Health organization, volunteering teaches kids empathy and compassion as well as intrinsic confidence. In fact, community outreach is imperative to help strengthen children’s sense of leadership and outlook on the world.

“As an art teacher, I think that it shows the importance of art in a role that in plays in the community and community wellness, building and care. And then I also think it just empowers kids to know that there are things they can do that, in return do help the people in our community,” Laura Mayo, the Orono Intermediate School Art teacher said.

Every year, the administration within the Orono School district comes together to plan this event. While most kids at Orono are sheltered by some forms of stability and food security, there are still many people in the community in desperate need for help. The Empty Bowls event allows students of all ages at Orono Schools to engage with civic duties in a fun and creative way.

“The Empty Bowls event is where kids around the OHS school district, make clay pots and bowls. People come and eat soup provided by local organizations in the community and then the money goes directly back into the community,” Youth in Action event coordinator Olivia Tate said.

This event occurred at a time in which funding for food insecurity is at a historical high. According to the United States Census, since 2020, the official poverty rate is up 11.4 percent, making 37.2 percent of Americans below the poverty line.

“It wasn’t just a pure Empty Bowls event. It was designed to be a service event with organizations ranging from the PTO to the Ronald McDonald association,” Orono High School Art teacher Jayne Hudgins said.

According to the official mission statement of the organization, Empty Bowls is a grassroots movement by artists and craftspeople that inspire people to raise money for food-related charities in order to provide for those within one’s community with significant needs.

“Traditionally in the past, we’ve donated to the maple plain food shelf and ICOP. It was mostly to get the word out about the different organizations as we only asked for a minimum of $10 contribution for each bowl. I think considering all things it went well,” Hudgins said.

Organizations such as IOCP, otherwise known as Interfaith Outreach & Community Partners, make it their mission is to respond to community needs. While there are many ways in which IOCP provides for communal necessities, it mainly focuses on equipping individuals and families with ongoing stability. This can be seen in the form of reducing food insecurity.

Another organization sponsored by this event is Western Communities Action Network, called WeCan mn in short. WeCan is a nonprofit organization that addresses human service needs by “delivering emergency service, sharing information, developing cooperative efforts, and making referrals to other agencies as needed”.

“It was held in the Orono Activity Center, which was the first time it has been held there. It was very wide open and there were also food trucks and other types of foods present for people to get in the outside courtyard area. I think it went really smoothly because there was a lot of open space and people were not confined to one space”, event attendee Delaney Whitney said.

Because of the Coronavirus Pandemic, the OHS school district was unable to hold this event last year. However, since then, coordinators have been able to change how the event is run, arguably shifting the profit margins to a larger audience. This effective and efficient change is crucial for community needs and has been successful immediately upon implementation.