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BELLOWS FALLS — Bellows Falls Union High School senior Shelby Stoodley had two needs: to come up with a senior project and to foster her love of ceramics, so she combined them.

After doing some research, she delivered 10 handmade bowls to Our Place Drop-in Center to use in the organization’s next Empty Bowl fundraiser to support the local food pantry.

As a freshman at BFUHS, she had a taste of the potter’s wheel with art teacher Anna Macijeski, but was disappointed she couldn’t fit the full ceramics class into her senior schedule.

“Although this devastation pushed me to achieve something else … to make this more than making ceramics, but making it to benefit the community,” she said.

With the help of Our Place board members Louise Luring and Sarah Campbell, Stoodley researched the event, learning that the first Empty Bowl took place on a hot September day in 1998 at the former Rockingham Motor Inn and has grown to become the organization’s major fundraiser. During the pandemic, Our Place had to switch to a non-in-person Stone Soup event, but hopes to get back to the gathering in person this fall.

As part of the project, Stoodley will make a presentation soon to a panel at the school, including research she did on the history of ceramics that helped her discover how art and ceramics benefit society.

“I believe art and ceramics benefit society in many ways,” she said. “I believe that the thought of giving someone a homemade gift made from your own artwork really does make a difference for people, having them feel loved and cared for.”

She sees art as a stress reliever that offers an opportunity for non-judgmental expression.