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Soup's on at fundraiser for health clinic

February 12, 2007|by ALICIA NOTARIANNI

HAGERSTOWN - As soup warms and fills the belly on a cold winter's day, the annual Potter's Bowl offers sustenance to the Community Free Clinic.

Ticket holders to this year's community interfaith project - 240 of them - lined up at Trinity Lutheran Church's fellowship hall Sunday evening awaiting a turn to approach tables filled with pottery bowls crafted by 24 area potters. Once there, each attendee chose a bowl from an array of colors, shapes and sizes before heading to dining tables for a meal of soup, bread and fruit.

"People eat soup from the bowl they like best, we wash and wrap it for them, and they go home with a gift they have picked for themselves," said Carol Mendelsohn, co-chairwoman of the Potter's Bowl.

Mendelsohn said the event began 15 years ago when the Community Free Clinic had a particularly difficult year financially and was struggling to stay afloat. As staff and volunteers at the clinic brainstormed ideas how to help, nurse Gail Culbertson mentioned that her husband, Ben Culbertson, a potter, had recently participated in an Empty Bowl dinner in Vermont to raise money for people who needed food.

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Mendelsohn, a clinic volunteer who had a personal interest in pottery, liked the idea. She enlisted the help of Janet Emral Shaool, another clinic volunteer and fellow congregation member at B'nai Abraham Synagogue.

Members of the synagogue joined the effort by making soup and nine potters donated their wares. Mendelsohn said one potter, a member of Trinity Lutheran Church, asked members of his congregation to provide desserts for the event.

"It really is a community project," Mendelsohn said. "Everybody pulls up their sleeves."

Interest in the event has grown each year. Ticket prices were increased from $15 to $40, and Trinity Lutheran began housing the dinner in order to accommodate more people.

Mendelsohn said due to financial difficulties at the clinic again during 2006, Potter's Bowl organizers decided to raise this year's ticket prices from $40 to $50. They still sold out.

"Last year, we raised $15,000. And this year, we hope to surpass that," Mendelsohn said.

Robin Roberson, executive director of Community Free Clinic, said the event is one of the clinic's biggest fundraisers.

"It's been a tremendous effort on behalf of the synagogue and Trinity Lutheran. The demand for services is unbelievable and that makes events like this even more important," Roberson said.

Agnes Supernavage, 57, of Hagerstown, said she has attended the event regularly for many years.

"I just like the atmosphere. It's very convivial, everybody is willing to help with the fundraising. And, of course, the soup is always delicious," she said.

Del Martin, owner of Foxcross Pottery in Sharpsburg, said he has been involved with the event since its inception.

"There's got to be a delivery system to get health care to everybody. Until that happens, this is one small way to help," Martin said.

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