Story last updated at 4/18/2017 - 3:20 pm
Do not turn away a poor man, even if all you can give is half a date. — Muhammad
When thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: and thou shalt be blessed. — Jesus
When watching after others, you watch after yourself. — Buddha
The sages all tell us that compassion is the right path in this world. Modern science agrees and has shown that with practice compassion can be developed and increased like muscles. A growing body of evidence finds that cultivating a compassionate nature benefits mental and physical health. On the whole, Juneau is an extraordinarily compassionate town. Nonprofits, churches, businesses and volunteers donate time, money, supplies and good energy to helping those less fortunate. St.Vincent de Paul, Salvation Army, Helping Hands, Juneau Food Bank, The Glory Hole and others work collaboratively in order to meet needs without duplicating effort. The flagship organization for chronically homeless people here in town, which provides more than fifty thousand meals and eleven thousand safe shelter beds per year, is the Glory Hole.
The Glory Hole’s biggest fundraiser of the year, “Empty Bowls,” is this weekend at Centennial Hall, Sunday, April 23 from 5-8 p.m. Tickets are on sale at Hearthside Books or at the door. Empty Bowls has become an annual spring thing on the calendar like the slush cup at Eaglecrest or the Folk Festival. For the price of a ticket you get a handmade bowl of your choice, plus you get fed, listen to live music, probably see a bunch of your friends and you can peruse a well-appointed silent auction that has something for everyone.
Glory Hole Director Mariya Lovischuck, who has a warm demeanor and a charming Russian accent, lights up with a huge smile when she talks about the community support for Empty Bowls. “It’s like magic,” she says. “All of these people, so many people—all just appear.”
They do appear with organizational help and encouragement from the Glory Hole Board of Directors’ Empty Bowls Soup Committee and the Empty Bowls Auction Committee. On April 23, volunteers from the community, People to People Ambassadors and Glory Hole patrons set up the event. Entering the lobby you’ll see long rows of tables laid out with hundreds of empty bowls. These are handmade donations from the Canvas, the University of Alaska Ceramics Department students, local potters, and wood turners. You walk along scoping them out until one catches your fancy. It’s yours to take home. There are boxes of bowls under the tables and Rotary Club volunteers are busy replacing bowls that have been chosen. They mix various bowl styles throughout the event so certain types don’t all go at once. When you’ve picked a bowl it’s time to go to the main hall for food.
Centennial Hall requires an approved caterer for events with food. The folks at Breeze In, because they’re awesome, donate that service for free AND they donate the bread and butter. It’s served at the back of the hall where there is a row of large kettles each holding a different kind of soup. Mariya says seventeen restaurants make those. “Just about all the restaurants in town donate delicious soups to us. And the Montessori School donates soup, too. They have a commercial kitchen. It’s pretty amazing,” she said. Here’s a shout out to El Sombrero, Asiana Gardens, Baranoff, Hangar, Little Hong Kong, Island Pub, Pucker Wilson’s, Rainbow Foods, Rockwell, Rookery, Sandpiper, Seong’s, Zen, V’s Cellar Door, Valley Restaurant, The Coconut Thai Cuisine and Tracy’s Crab Shack. Rotary Club volunteers serve up the soups (in paper bowls). Then there are the cookies. Mariya said the churches make those.
“Which churches?” I asked.
“All of them!” she said. “Just about all the churches in town. Every year, around three o’clock, cookies start showing up. Dozens and dozens of cookies.”
Local musicians like Full Circle Music (Mary DeSmet and Greg Burger), the people at Aurora Strings, and Tom Locher donate their talent. The silent auction is in the middle of the hall. Items there are as diverse as the town, and run the gamut from high end to eclectic. Glory Hole Board President Marla Berg chairs the Auction Committee. She credits the success of Empty Bowls, especially donations for the auction, to the support and generosity of community. She says that of all the businesses she’s called to ask for donations every one of them has donated. Items this year—to name just a few—include: Alaska Airlines tickets, flight seeing, whale watching and tickets to arts events. Three different families are each donating a gourmet dinner for six, a commercial fisherman is donating a king salmon(!), Coppa is donating an ice cream cake (you call them a week before you want it and they make it for you). For gardening season Ed Buyarski is donating a gardening consultation, and Landscape Alaska, Glacier Gardens and the Arboretum are donating plants that thrive in Southeast gardens. Other items up for auction are hand-turned wooden bowls, pottery, a tooled leather purse, books and much more. Even right before the event Mariya says, “Sometimes people just randomly show up with items.” Along with the silent auction there is a lively, shouted-out dessert auction. Some of the best cooks and chefs in the city make killer pies and cakes that go to the highest bidder. After the auctions, when the bowls are empty and the music is winding down, the Glacier Swim Club does clean-up in the hall.
The Glory Hole Soup Kitchen and Emergency Center provides food and safe beds but they do so much more that the shelter itself is an article for another day. For everybody I missed whose support makes Empty Bowls and the Glory Hole possible: banks, physicians, dentists, all sorts of businesses and individuals, thank you so much for being there to support this profoundly compassionate community enterprise.
For more information on the Glory Hole, or to volunteer, you can contact the shelter at: The Glory Hole 247 South Franklin Street, Juneau, Alaska 99801, www.feedjuneau.org , or 907-586-4304.
This article is Part V in a series on outstanding volunteer-driven assets in the Capital City.
Dick Callahan is a Juneau writer. In April 2016, he won first place in the Alaska Press Club Awards for best outdoors or sports column in the state.