For the first time in 30 years, the annual Alli Ortega Empty Bowls fundraising event is going virtual.
Instead of hosting the event at Scottsdale Community College, where anywhere from 300 to 500 people would come through to buy locally made bowls, Scottsdale Community Partners will host a 12-hour virtual event March 31 on Facebook.
From 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., donors can visit SCP’s Facebook event page to watch key interviews with Scottsdale Mayor David Ortega and SCP President Rosemary Young Karlin, whose mother, Frances Young, started the organization many decades ago when it was called Concerned Citizens for Community Health.
“There’s going to be lots of learning about the organization and what we do and how it impacts the community,” said Jenny Adams, SCP Executive Director, of the livestreamed event.
Empty Bowls is named after and dedicated to Mayor Ortega’s daughter, Alli Ortega, a passionate art teacher and mentor in Scottsdale who died in 2014 at 31.
The pandemic forced organizers to rethink the event this year.
“Our hands were tied,” Adams said. “But we did not want to let the opportunity to have this event pass us by altogether.”
At the last Empty Bowls event, more than 400 people between the ages of 5 and 96 made the bowls and other ceramic artwork for sale.
“I think that has been the most devastating thing about the situation that we’re in,” Adams said, “not only from our perspective, but certainly from the school’s perspective, the teacher’s perspective, even the kid’s perspective.
“It’s become something that those schools look forward to as a content piece, and it’s been really hard to think that it’s just not going to happen this year.”
Throughout the year, SUSD students and community members attend workshops and classes where they learn about pottery and design. They then create individual pottery pieces for sale.
But because Scottsdale Arts, one of the Empty Bowls partners, was unable to hold in-person workshops or classes, donors will instead be entered into a drawing for one of the handmade “mystery bowls” crafted by an Arizona artist.
“We knew that people would be missing the bowls. So, we were trying to come up with something that could be tangible but also could be practical for us,” Adams explained. “We thought it was a great way to showcase some of the local artists that we have in Scottsdale.”
Valued at $100 or more, the five bowls that will be given away to lucky donors were made by Bob Stall, an SCP board member; Kathy Anderson, a retired SUSD visual arts teacher; and local artists Baron Gordon and Danielle Wood.
“People love to leave with that bowl, which we totally understand, but the practicality of having a bowl sale over the internet made my head spin. So, we thought that this was a really nice alternative,” Adams said. “That was one of our biggest challenges was to figure out an alternative.”
The Empty Bowls goal this year is to raise $10,000. Both Adams and SCP Sponsorship Consultant Denny Brown are confident they’ll reach it — thanks to the new virtual format, which will help them expand their reach.
“Now, we’re reaching out and trying to make new friends and create new awareness of all the wonderful things Scottsdale Community Partners does,” Brown said.
For 30 years, the annual Empty Bowls fundraising event has raised thousands of dollars and helped hundreds of Scottsdale families and seniors receive food, assistance, school supplies and more.
“One of the things we’re looking at right now, in particular, is that we know that we are going to have some long-term financial pain out in the community,” Adams said. “We know that some of the jobs that have gone away during COVID are probably never coming back, businesses are never coming back.”
Amid the pandemic, SCP had a staggering 57 percent increase in calls from people asking for help.
“Food has become a major issue,” Adams said. “We have a lot of people who have never before needed food coming to our doorstep saying, ‘We need food.’”
Brown added, “We have a broad range of programs, but it costs money. And this is a singular event where we can go out and say, ‘You can help. You can make a difference in our community.’”
To join the event: facebook.com/scottsdalecommunitypartners.