Erin Petersen

Help the hungry, feed your soul

By - Nov 4th, 2009 06:10 am
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Since 1987, Feeding America (formerly America’s Second Harvest of Wisconsin) has fought to end hunger in eastern Wisconsin by providing nourishment and shelter for those who need it most.  For the past five years, the organization has collaborated with  Flux Design, a design/build firm that’s responsible for some of Milwaukee’s most dynamic interiors, in hopes of ending hunger through Feed Your Soul — an exceptional charitable event. Now in it’s sixth year, Feed Your Soul has grown by leaps and bounds, and its impact has spread farther than it’s humble creators could have ever imagined. This year’s event is this Friday, Nov. 6.

Photo courtesy of Feed Your Soul website

All photos courtesy of the Feed Your Soul website

Feed Your Soul (FYS) began  in 2004 as a vehicle for people to respond to hunger in Milwaukee, while simultaneously enriching their lives with art. The concept behind FYS starts with an empty wooden bowl — an apt reminder of the thousands of Wisconsin families with empty bowls on their tables. Each FYS participant receives their bowl and then transforms these simple objects into one-of-a-kind art pieces. The pieces, along with other 2D submissions are up for bid during a silent auction at the event. In the end, it can be quite amazing to see how each artist interprets the medium. Years past have produced shingled bird houses, retro light fixtures, handbags and some very sweet, very sci-fi  inspired insect sculptures.

“It’s a symbol of plenty,” FYS Co-Chair and Flux Administrator Liz Syrrakos says of the bowl concept, “and how we can turn nothing into something if we try.”

All of the proceeds go directly toward benefiting Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin’s (FAEW) meal programs, shelters and senior centers. Since 2004, FYS has been able to raise more than $157,000.

The timing of the event couldn’t be better — poised right before two major U.S. holidays and at a time when many Milwaukeeans are still recovering from the effects of a weakened economy. With all of us strained, mentally and financially, it can be easy to forget about those who are worse off, without things like food or a safe place to stay. With the unemployment rate soaring to 8.5 percent, the number of families and individuals that rely on meal programs and shelters rises even higher, and organizations like FAEW need support to continue to provide for those in need.

FYS-002Syrrakos says that the contribution process is something that sets FYS apart from other charitable events — for every dollar that is donated, five meals are provided.

“The donations are immediately tangible,” she says.

After volunteering alongside other committee members at various soup kitchens and food pantries, Syrrakos says that it was shocking to see the number of people in the Milwaukee area who are dependent on FAEW, especially small children. On average, the organization feeds about 235,000 people in Eastern Wisconsin per year. About 87,000 — nearly 40 percent — of those are children, a statistic that’s hard to wrap your head around, but one that cannot be ignored. In spite of the staggering numbers, FAEW has been able to provide more than 200 million meals to children, families and senior citizens in the 27 years since its inception.

“What these people do is amazing and awe-inspiring,” Syrrakos says, adding, “Feeding America creates hope for those who have none.”

The big hearts behind Feed Your Soul have been working tirelessly for months to make this  year’s event bigger and better than ever, aiming to increase both attendance (2008 boasted about 600 people) and monetary totals from previous years. From what Syrrakos tells me, 2009 promises a great party. On the walls and in the gallery, you’ll find 0507original art pieces and in the shop you can check out  performances from Ko-Thi Dance Co. and sweet ’80s mashups from DJ D-ON throughout the night. Water Buffalo will provide the comestibles and libations for the evening (you’ll find me hovering over the buffet) and beyond that, FYS gives you a chance to network and explore the Flux studio — not to mention that warm, fuzzy feeling you’ll get knowing that your presence can impact hunger.

“It’s an experience that’s hard to describe in words,” Syrrakos says.

The Sixth Annual Feed Your Soul fundraiser kicks off this Friday, Nov. 6, 7-11 p.m., at Flux Design, 811 E. Vienna. Tickets are $25 in advance or $35 at the door. I’ll see you there.

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