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Dishing up donations

Handmade soup bowls raise funds for needy

Created date

March 23rd, 2016
Maris Grove residents Gerri Eisenstein and Paul Meckley

Maris Grove residents Gerri Eisenstein and Paul Meckley show off some of the bowls made by the warm glass group for Maris Grove’s Empty Bowls project.

Maris Grove, Erickson Living’s retirement community in Delaware County, Pa., has a knack for developing creative, artistic, and fun projects to benefit those in need in the surrounding towns. 

To benefit Empty Bowls, an international grassroots effort to combat hunger, Maris Grove’s resident outreach group enlisted help from residents, staff, and Stroller Strides, a moms’ fitness group in Glen Mills. The volunteers made soup bowls for an Empty Bowls fundraising lunch this year. 

Most of the nearly 200 bowls were hand-shaped from clay and fired in the kiln in the Brinton Clubhouse creative arts studio at Maris Grove. 

The community’s warm glass group fashioned bowls from a different medium. Using bowl-shaped molds, they heated pieces of colorful fusing glass in the kiln to create unique and artful bowls.

Sharing gifts

When Paul Meckley and his wife moved to Maris Grove from nearby Birmingham Twp., he vowed to do only the things he truly enjoyed. 

That primarily meant stained glass, which Paul has perfected over 30 years. He also started Maris Grove’s warm glass group to share his skill with that technique.

Paul is no stranger to helping others. The stained glass pieces he makes today are auctioned to help fund a farm whose products supply a food bank in Westchester.

An appreciation for colored glass enticed Gerri Eisenstein to join the warm glass group. “We were all experimenting, but Paul guided us,” she says. “The glass is beautiful. Fusing it with other pieces creates a whole new image.” 

Gerri uses warm glass to create her own distinctive dinnerware. 

She also chairs the resident outreach group and is committed to helping the less fortunate. The Empty Bowls project lets her use her creativity to do that.

“I’m blessed to be at Maris Grove,” she says. “I can participate in every way I want to, and I live life to the upmost.”

The bonus of friendship

Residents started gathering in the creative arts studio last October to make their bowls. 

Mej Blake and Jane Flick met during the previous year’s project and quickly became good friends. 

Jane says making bowls is therapeutic: “Shaping clay is good for your hands, and the company is good for your soul.”

“We create and share with other residents, which is so rewarding,” says Mej. “Maris Grove provides the clay, the room, and the kiln to do this. And we never have to go outside to get here.”

Conveniently located elevators and stairways take them downstairs. Then they simply cross a climate-controlled bridge to the arts studio. “If we still lived in our houses,” says Jane, “in bad weather, we might never get out to do this.”

Residents’ success at bowl making inspired them to branch out to create clay pumpkins and holiday ornaments. “People saw our work and said they could never do those things,” says Mej, “but we grabbed them in, they made something themselves, and they were so pleased!”

She and Jane even coaxed family members to make some bowls. Mej’s granddaughter, who is 27, had such fun that she said she’s ready to move to Maris Grove.