Students lend a hand to help area families

Jan Garrison

From Empty Bowls to Christmas baskets


March 18, 2021

Thirty Culver Academies students recently participated in a special Free Throw Friday event in the Crisp Visual Arts Center to benefit the Food Bank of Northern Indiana. They are making food-safe soup bowls for the Empty Bowls fundraiser that is conducted by MoonTree Studios in nearby Donaldson, Indiana.

Art Instructor Diana Westphal started the program last year. Along with the 30 students who came for the Friday evening event, she has 13 students in her wheel classes throwing bowls for an assignment and then they can make more for donating. After winter break, the students will trim and glaze their bowls. After inspecting the bowls, Westphal said she anticipates donating 30 of them to the program.

This is the second year Culver students have participated in the fundraiser. Last year, students donated 25 bowls. Culver Academies is the only area school participating in the event, Rachel Hansen of MoonTree Studios said.

Since 2014, approximately 10 area artists create from five to 20 clay or glass bowls apiece, which are sold during a benefit dinner. With the additional bowls provided Culver students, she had nearly 200 bowls for sale last year.


Students are expected to produce up to 30 bowls for the fundraiser.


Normally, those purchasing a ticket select a bowl, then use them during a dinner at Moontree, Hansen explained. However, due to COVID-19 restrictions, the 2021 Empty Bowls involved people purchasing a ticket and coming in to choose their bowls at set times. And, as a precautionary measure, Hansen said the decision was made to do the same in March.

Each ceramic bowl is made from 1 to 1.5 pounds of clay and coated with a food-safe glaze. The bowls are then delivered to MoonTree Studios, 9601 Union Road, Donaldson, for the March fundraiser. Tickets may be purchased online or by stopping by the studio during the month.

Since its inception, MoonTree's Empty Bowls has raised $17,030.14. One hundred percent of the money goes the Food Bank of Northern Indiana, Hansen said.

In 2020, the Food Bank of Northern Indiana distributed 11.9 million pounds of food to its network of 140 member agencies in its six-county service area. This includes the Culver Community Food Pantry and five other agencies in Marshall County.  During the pandemic, FBNI has also been hosting mobile food distribution sites. According to the agency’s statistics, nearly 13% of northern Indiana residents are food insecure.

Community Service Council members assisted in packing more than 140 food baskets for area families.

Community food baskets

On Saturday, CYCO (Culver Youth Community Organization), a combined group of Culver Academies’ Community Service Council and Culver Community High School students, and other volunteers packed  Christmas food baskets for families living within the Culver Community School Corporation. The district covers four townships in four counties: Marshall, Starke, Pulaski and Fulton.

According to Marlene Mahler, who has guided the program since its inception 23 years ago, Saturday’s event will help more than 140 households in the Culver school district. The community also raised $15,000 and the Park & Shop grocery store ordered the discounted food items for the baskets. Gifts for almost 200 children were also donated. Members of the fire, emergency medical services, and police departments in Culver and the surrounding communities deliver the food baskets and gifts, she said.

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