SHERIDAN — Volunteers of America Northern Rockies hosts the Empty Bowl event annually to help fund homeless services and other outreach efforts by VOA in Sheridan County.

Last year, VOANR assisted 219 veterans, 51 youth and 193 individuals with rapid rehousing and homeless services. The impact, though, starts before event funds start flowing.

Junior high and high school art students in Sheridan feel the impact, too. Throughout the year, art students create a variety of projects out of clay. Middle school teacher Mary Lawson requires each of her students to create two ceramic bowls — one for themselves and the other to donate for Empty Bowl. Lawson’s classes alone have collected well over 100 bowls to donate to the cause.

When Lawson first presented the requirement to the students of having to donate one of the bowls, the whys turned into a teaching lesson beyond art.

Lawson explained that families in Sheridan and around the world may be one paycheck away from becoming homeless, and that situation may even describe several of the students or their families and friends. She explained this small act is one way as a group to give back to the community.

“Empty Bowl becomes real to them,” Lawson said.

The explanation resonated with the students.

Eighth-grade student Addy Morgareidge slowly improved over three years of making bowls for Lawson’s class and Empty Bowl. This year, she made sure her creation was perfect for the person receiving it.

Morgareidge said she sees homelessness in Sheridan and the need among her friends.

“I just try to help as much as I can so that these people get help and they don’t have to feel helpless all the time,” Morgareidge said.

Abigail Newton, a seventh-grader at Sheridan Junior High School, felt the project was a good use of her time.

“It’s fun to get to make something for somebody else and to enjoy it,” Newton said.

Eighth-grader Aubry Williams often gives away her artwork to share her talents with friends and family. The opportunity to give away one of her ceramic bowls made the art project “even cooler,” and she crafted hers to reflect as much beauty as possible.

Lawson, who has attended Empty Bowl since the Shriners hosted the event, finds the giving spirit going beyond the Empty Bowl project in her classroom. She prided SJHS in community outreach and contributions to those in need. Students often participate in “Hat Day,” where for a small cost, students may wear a hat in school for the day. The donated funds go to student or faculty families in need.

The food-safe, large ceramic bowls that will no doubt cover a large portion of the available bowls at Thursday’s event were made by hands learning the benefit of paying it forward and giving back to a community that gives so much to them.

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