NEW BUFFALO — New Buffalo High School students have been busy creating ceramic works of art for the 8th annual Empty Bowls Dinner.

A fund-raiser for the local Blessings in a Backpack effort, the dinner was originally scheduled for 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 1, in the Middle/High School cafeteria. Due to the Polar Vortex that forced the cancellation of an entire week of school, the dinner has been postponed to Tuesday, Feb.. 19.

A suggested donation of $10 for a ceramic bowl made by a New Buffalo High School student will provide diners with that work of original art, a meal of soup or chili with crackers, a beverage, and dessert. Boys and girls basketball games will be going in in the adjacent gymnasiums that evening as well.

The 2019 Empty Bowls Dinner is sponsored by the Student Senate, which has representatives from every class.

Teachers Tina Keller and Beth Scoggin have been involved in the Empty Bowls Dinner from your one.

“It’s for a great cause, and not only does it benefit some elementary students in need, but it also gives our students a big confidence boost when they know that they’re helping someone out,” Scoggin said.

Keller said diners usually arrive at the cafeteria, choose their ceramic creation, have their meal, and socialize with others.

“It’s meant to be a grassroots community event, increasing awareness of homelessness, awareness of poverty levels, awareness of those who are a little less fortunate in our own community,” Keller said.

Keller said staff members and parents make soup, chili and/or desserts for the dinner portion of the event.

She traditionally brings “whatever my husband’s willing to make” for the dinner.

“He (Paul Keller) is the better soup maker,” she added.

Scoggin’s speciality is Southwest Turkey Chili — “every year.”

Art teacher Jake Zapor said students in his beginning and advanced classes (about 40 total) are on schedule to create more than 50 bowls (and other ceramic works) by Feb. 1.

“There are some that are wheel-thrown. Most of them are coil pots, hand-built,” he said.  

He said a group of teachers also got together recently to make some bowls of their own.

Among the students creating ceramic keepsakes for the dinner are freshmen Shannon DeWit and Avery Lonske.

Lonske said his Empty Bowls work features “an 80’s theme” color pattern.

DeWit said she engraved a snowflake design inside her bowl since its a winter event.

Both students expressed support for the Empty Bowls Dinner’s goal of supporting a program that supplies backpacks of food for elementary-age pupils on weekends during the school year.

Zapor said the community support aspect of the annual event provides extra motivation for the students.

“It’s nice that they can do something and feel good about it. They’re creating a product using their artistic skill, things that they learned in class, to create something that’s going to a good cause,” he said.

New Buffalo High School Student Senate members and other pupils set up the cafeteria and clean up after the dinner, serve the food and take donations at the door.

“It’s for a good cause and it’s fun working it,” said Libby Price (Student Senate co-president with Max Folino).

Student Senate activities also include food drives, planning Winterfest and other events.

For more information on the Empty Bowls Dinner, contact Keller at or (269) 469-6046; or Scoggin at or (269) 469-6045.

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