FARMINGTON – The idea is simple. Buy a handmade pottery bowl for $10, and fill it with free soup. This simple idea has helped raise about $10,000 annually during the past five years for a local charity.
San Juan College’s annual Charity Bowl event is in its 20th year, but each year’s success comes as a welcome surprise to organizers.
“It’s gone up every year,” said Don Ellis, a professor at the college. Ellis’ pottery students craft the bowls throughout the semester.
When the first charity event was held, organizers expected to make $300, said Ellis, who has run the event for the past 13 years. That goal has shifted over the past five years to at least $10,000, he said.
Each student makes about 100 bowls, with a few local potters from Farmington and Durango donating pottery, too. In total, the event will sell about 1,500 bowls, said Ellis, who is a renowned potter countrywide.
After two decades, the community of Farmington has come to look forward to the event that draws regular supporters.
“You have people with laundry baskets waiting out at the door,” Ellis said.
While a portion of the proceeds go toward providing the soup from Mary’s Kitchen and purchasing the clay for next year, the majority of the money from the event goes directly to a local nonprofit. For the first 15 years, Northwest New Mexico Hospice was the fundraising recipient, but when it closed about three years ago, Ellis decided to let a steering committee of four students start selecting a new nonprofit each year, with an emphasis on the money remaining local.
Ann Fourr, who was on the committee to help choose the charities, said, “The one thing that is really important to us is that the money stays in this community and serves the people.”
Last year’s event raised about $12,000 and was split equally between Bags of Love and Sexual Assault Services. This year, money will go to San Juan Special Olympics and Wounded Warriors Extreme Adventures.
“In the grand scheme of things, it’s not a huge amount of money, but it is to some people,” Ellis said.
In addition to the donated bowls, the event features art, jewelery and pottery for sale from Ellis’ students.
Wendy Most of Durango has been taking pottery classes at the college with her husband for almost two years, and she said this is their first year selling at the charity event.
“The people that come for it, they come every year,” Most said.
For Ellis, it’s the dedication of his students who make the event special.
“They basically spend the fall semester, at least two-thirds of it, making bowls,” he said. “Some of them will start next week making bowls.”