Friday October 5, 2012

Photo caption: Melinda Bussino choosing a bowl at the 2011 Empty

Bowls dinner. PUTNEY - This year’s ninth annual Empty Bowls Dinner to benefit the Brattleboro Area Drop-In Center will take place on Saturday, Oct. 6, with two seatings at 5 and 6:30 p.m. in the dining hall at Landmark College in Putney. For a $25 donation, guests will be served a simple, nutritious meal of soup, bread, cheese, apples, beverage, and dessert, and will enjoy live music. Afterwards, guests are invited to keep the hand-crafted bowl from which they ate as a reminder of the many people who go hungry each day in our community and beyond.

Since 1988 The Brattleboro Area Drop In Center has provided food, shelter and other essential resources to those in need, in Brattleboro and many surrounding towns. The recent death of the organization’s founder and director, Melinda Bussino, left many in the community reeling, though the Drop In Center’s vital services have continued uninterrupted.

The organization’s major fundraiser, the Empty Bowls dinner, will be dedicated to the memory of Melinda and her tireless efforts on behalf of those in need. Lucie Fortier who has taken over the helm as director of the Drop-In Center since Melinda’s death had this to say about Melinda and her involvement in the Empty Bowls event: "I joined the board in September and Melinda had me working the very first Empty Bowls. I enjoyed it and was overwhelmed with all the bowls. I was in awe of all the people who came out to help with this fundraiser. When I was asked to join the Empty Bowls planning committee I quickly agreed because I believe in this event. It brings everyone together for an evening. Melinda’s passion for her work showed and that energy flowed down to everyone who worked with her on the fundraiser. What a wonderful legacy she has left behind."

Christie Herbert, the president of the Empty Bowls planning committee had these observations to add: " Melinda would often arrive slightly late to our Empty Bowls’ meetings, rushing from somewhere else, often from some distance, and always managing to sit down and immediately engage in the heart of what we were discussing. She had a remarkable combination of clarity, common sense, patience and a razor-like focus on the needs of "her" people. She could somehow hold all of them close to her heart as she deftly maneuvered through countless meetings, ours included. This ability to transition into the moment, while holding a million details, was astounding and particularly apparent on the evenings of the actual Empty Bowls’ dinners over the years. When it was time for her to address the crowds, she always seemed happy to have the chance to tell people about the needs of the homeless in our area. I love the picture of Melinda on this year’s poster because it shows her looking so happy and calm, just enjoying the event. This was Melinda; working incredibly hard, but stopping to enjoy life too. I am glad to have had her as one of the more important mentors and role models in my life and I hope to embody some of what I learned from her."

Empty Bowls is made possible by dozens of volunteers ranging from ceramic artists who begin making bowls in the spring, to high school students who help serve and clean up on the night of the dinner. Area businesses and restaurants contribute food, beverages, desserts and supplies, and local professional musicians provide entertainment. Empty Bowls is an annual, worldwide event that raises hunger awareness as well as funds to fight hunger. In our southern Vermont area, the dinner is sponsored by Brattleboro Clayworks (a potters’ cooperative and ceramics resource center) and Landmark College, which hosts the dinner, as well as Brattleboro Savings and Loan, New Chapter and The Trust Company of Vermont. All proceeds are donated to the Brattleboro Area Drop In Center. The dramatic rise in food prices in recent months has meant that the Brattleboro Area Drop In Center has seen a tremendous increase in requests for food and other services. Over 7,100 individuals rely on the Drop In Center, and of these, many are working poor-people who are fully employed, but whose wages do not cover their basic living expenses. Half of all the people who are served by the Drop In Center are children and senior citizens. The Brattleboro Area Drop In Center also operates an overflow shelter in the winter at the First Baptist Church, in conjunction with Morningside Shelter.

How can you help? Your support of the Brattleboro Area Drop In Center and/or attendance at the ninth annual Empty Bowls Dinner will make a difference to the hungry in our community. Tickets are $25 and are on sale now at Everyone’s Books and The Shoe Tree in Brattleboro, and Offerings Jewelry in Putney. Tickets can be reserved by calling 800 852-4286 Ext. 108. More information can found at www.brattleborodropin.org , www.brattleboroclayworks.com and by visiting Empty Bowls - Southern Vermont on Facebook.