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California dairies help fundraise for rescue mission

PD Editor Walt Cooley Published on 12 May 2011

Central Valley dairymen and two dairy nutrition companies recently gave a helping hand to a Visalia soup kitchen and Christian social service organization.

The Visalia Rescue Mission held its second annual Empty Bowls fundraiser dinner in Tulare County, California, in March. Diamond V and Nutrius sponsored the event and invited their local dairy clients to buy a ticket and attend. A minimum donation of $25 was required for a ticket.

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Jessica Van Ginkel, community development director for the Visalia Rescue Mission, says ticket sales and donations helped raise more than $12,000 for the center. Some gave more than the requested $25 ticket price.

“The dairy community is unlike any other. They share their blessings abundantly,” Van Ginkel says. “Even though they are going through a very rough time right now, they are still willing to give. And they give to causes they believe in.”

More than 175 community members attended the event, which included a tour of the the 15,000-square-foot community center, the testimony of a graduate from the mission’s addiction recovery program, live music, art exhibitions and dinner.

A soup dinner served in a handcrafted ceramic bowl is the highlight of the event. Each of the ceramic bowls was hand-spun by a local artist; none of the bowls were the same.

Van Ginkel says the bowls have a dual purpose. They not only serve as dinnerware for the evening but as art to be displayed at home once the bowl is empty.

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She says she hopes the decorative bowls will remind attendees that somewhere in the community there may be someone whose bowl will be empty for dinner.

“I urge everyone to keep their bowls as a reminder of people worldwide that don’t have food,” Van Ginkel says. “I hope that every time they use it at home or see it on display, it’s a great reminder of those that are less fortunate.”

Visalia dairyman John Moons has attended both of the mission’s Empty Bowls fundraisers. He brought his seven children to them as well.

“We have a nice collection of handcrafted bowls,” Moons says. “Whenever we have soup we break them out.”

One of the bowls Moons says he likes the most is the one his 6-year-old son was served. It’s the largest in his collection.

“His bowl is big enough it could feed a 300-pound man,” Moons says. “When we have soup at home it looks like he doesn’t eat much, but that’s because his bowl is so big.”

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Moons says he and his children enjoyed watching some of the local artists demonstrate how their ceramic bowls were made. Moons’ children have volunteered at the center and he admires the great things the center does for the community.

Van Ginkel says local dairy producers are on the mission’s property helping in one way or another every week. She says the dairy industry’s support is “genuine and hard-working.”

“They give of their time and their kids’ time. Year-round they help us function. Without their support I don’t know that we would be able to do what we can now do,” Van Ginkel says. “The Lord called us to help those in need; they don’t lose sight of that, even in tough times.” PD

To get involved with the Visalia Rescue Mission or its annual Empty Bowls event, contact Jessica Van Ginkel at or (559) 740-4178 .

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