Guntown Middle School sixth-graders did their part to help fight hunger in the area. The social studies students put their hands, minds and creative spirits to work making bowls for the upcoming Salvation Army Empty Bowls event on Feb. 29.

The effort, which initially comprised making about 140 bowls to be given away during the benefit, was part of the social studies classes' community service undertaking; teacher Jill Rooney explained that performing some sort of community service work is part of the curriculum.

And most of the students wanted it to continue.

“We didn't want the clay to end,” said Anna Grace Dulaney, 11, as she helped 12-year-old Dylan Miller wrap finished bowls to be taken to the Tupelo Furniture Market, site of the annual Empty Bowls event. “We wanted it to last.”

But, alas, all good things must come to an end and this week's effort at making about 100 more bowls will mark the finish of the popular project.

Lee County Schools' Gena Yarbrough, the district's lead art teacher and coordinator for elementary schools, said the additional bowls won't be ready by the time Empty Bowls is held but Guntown students have decided to sell the bowls and donate the proceeds to the Salvation Army.

“What better way to teach students about the needs in their community?” Yarbrough asked.

Yarbrough said that clay is donated to the Salvation Army for the bowl-making and Guntown received a couple hundreds pounds for the initial effort; the school will receive another 200 pounds for the additional bowls.

Rooney said making the bowls took about two class periods. The first was spent forming the clay into vessels with large fluting around the tops; some were etched with “GMS,” for Guntown Middle School, on the bottom. Then the bowls were taken to Yarbrough's office at Saltillo Elementary School, where they were fired in her kiln.

Returned to Guntown, the students then painted their bowls and returned to Yarbrough for the final firing. Yarbrough added crushed glass to some of the creations, making a crystallized pattern in the bottom of them.

“It adds a little extra,” said Yarbrough. She said this is the fifth time Guntown has made the Empty Bowls.

“I'm proud of the kids. We hope to do it every year,” she said. “Jill Rooney is the driving force.”

Although Guntown is the only middle school participating at this time, Yarbrough said the other three county middle schools — Shannon, Plantersville and Mooreville — are certainly welcome to join the effort: “The teachers need to be really motivated,” she said.

The whole process, said Rooney, piqued her students' interest.

“When the bowls came back,” said Rooney, “they were very surprised because they didn't look like when they left.” Students, she said, were understandably proud of their accomplishments.

“Mine is the best,” said 12-year-old Jamarcus Young with a big grin, “because it just is.”

And the mission was not lost on any of them.

“It was really fun,” said Jillian McCollum, 12. “We did it to give back to the Salvation Army.”

Most students were taken with the chance to make something from nothing but clay and paint: “I liked the painting part because it's creative and you could choose any color you wanted,” said Chris Glover, 12.

Sharon Martin, another Guntown social studies teacher, said the 140 bowls would equate to about $2,100 in sales of Empty Bowls tickets, which this year are $15 each for the event.

“That will be our donation,” said Martin.

She also lauded the parents who attended the forming and painting sessions at the school: “It was wonderful that parents came in and helped. They have been very excited and supportive.”

The Salvation Army Women's Auxiliary Empty Bowls Luncheon and Bake Sale features signature soups from area restaurants and organizations. Meals for families of six are also available by calling 662.213.7596 or 844.2006. For tickets and information call 662.231.2879. Hours are 10 a.m.-1 p.m. in Building V of Tupelo Furniture Market at 1879 N. Coley Rd.

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