Soup, Support & Superstition

By Beacon Staff

Friday the 13th may carry some negative connotations, but this year for the Flathead Food Bank and those who support it, the notorious day has less to do with luck and more to do with fun, fellowship and food.

The Flathead Food Bank will hold its 17th annual Soup Supper on Friday, April 13 at Northridge Lutheran Church in Kalispell. The evening’s festivities begin at 5:30 p.m. and tickets cost $25.

Lori Botkin, director at the food bank, said the soup supper is one of the most important fundraisers for the organization. The Flathead Food Bank serves a significant part of the valley, providing resources for those who may not know where their next meal is coming from.

The main pantry is located in Kalispell, but there are satellite pantries in Evergreen, Bigfork, Marion and Martin City. The food bank reports that in 2010, it served 455,220 meals to 50,580 people and gave away a total of 1,198,220 pounds of food.

The Soup Supper provides the Flathead Food Bank with its biggest financial boost of the year.

“This is our big fundraiser for the whole year, so it’s very important,” Botkin said. “We try and make as much dough as we can.”

Many residents in the valley are still feeling ripples from the recession, Botkin said. The food bank is as busy as ever, and summer is typically a time when donations decrease.

Most of the money earned from the April 13 dinner will go toward buying provisions to cover this lull in donations.

“People forget to donate,” Botkin said. “Hungry people just aren’t on the top of their lists. It’s really important for us to buy food.”

This year’s theme, “SOUPerstition Friday,” just sort of fell into the planning group’s lap, Botkin said. Having an event on Friday the 13th allows for some fun with the decorating and with the bowls that are created and donated for the dinner.

Local potters and students throughout the valley craft the bowls for the soup. One such potter is Jean Hansen, who, along with her husband, donates at least 100 bowls each year.

Hansen has been part of the annual project for 14 years. She used to own her own pottery business in Kalispell after finishing her career in social services. Now, at 71, Hansen still believes in supporting the food bank with her creations.

“When I worked for social services I saw so many families that didn’t qualify for the program through social services, and it was usually families who had horrible medical bills,” Hansen said. “I felt and I still feel that the food bank is a place to help people for the short term.”

Hansen has worked with numerous groups over the years to either make bowls or paint pre-made ceramic pieces, but resources and volunteers have fallen short lately.

It can be a costly endeavor, she said, starting with the price of bowls and glazes and the firing treatment. Still, Hansen said she thinks the food bank is a vital resource in the Flathead Valley and she will continue to support it with bowls.

But Hansen did find some little helpers in Kila, where she donated the materials for her granddaughter to work with third-graders to paint some creations. The school kids ended up donating 30 bowls to the food bank’s supper.

It’s a benefit for the organization, but it also sets a foundation for volunteerism, Hansen said.

“I think that by getting these children involved with this, they continue helping,” she said. “They get a real sense of satisfaction that they have helped someone else.”

Along with the soup, which comes from 14 different restaurants throughout the valley, supper attendees will have a chance to win door prizes, including a $1,700 wicker patio set.

Other prizes include a meal for six to eight people prepared at the winner’s house by culinary students from Flathead Valley Community College; a trip to Silverwood Theme Park; tickets to wherever Alaska Airlines flies; skateboards; date packages with theater or movies tickets, dinner and a night at a nice hotel; and more.

The Flathead Food Bank’s Soup Supper takes place April 13 at 5:30 p.m. at Kalispell’s Northridge Lutheran Church. For tickets, visit the food bank at 1203 Highway 2 W. Suite 2 or call 752-3663.

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