Empty Bowls fundraiser a hit for Trinity, bittersweet goodbye for development director

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For Dell Caron Gray, this year’s seventh annual Empty Bowls Supper was much more than a success as she witnessed 200 pieces of pottery dwindle down to a dozen in less than two hours.

The longtime development director of Trinity Jubilee Center, the annual fundraiser was a bittersweet swan song as she prepares to step down from the position she’s held and loved for more than five years.

Gray steps down Friday as the center’s development director for personal health reasons.

“I wanted to go out with a bang,” Gray said, smiling as she looked at the near-empty tables that were once filled with pieces donated by 15 amateur and professional potters. “I wanted to go out knowing that this event made a difference.”

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And what a difference it made.

This year, all but a dozen pieces were left after just one hour. Gray said that the event is expected to raise more than $3,000. The funding will be used to help stock the center’s food pantry.

Buying from Good Shepherd Food-Bank enables Trinity to purchase enough food for its average of 225 families served each week. At a cost of about $200 per week, the money raised from Sunday’s event will help the center’s pantry purchase food for the next four months.

“I try to come every year. I know firsthand the work that Trinity does,” Nancy Audet, 50, of Topsham, said. “There are a lot of needs in the community that wouldn’t get met if it wasn’t for the work Trinity did. They serve such a diverse population.”

Audet brought her mother, 77-year-old Yvette Audet, to her first Empty Bowls this year. The Lewiston woman said the event was really nice and the soup very good.

And that’s exactly what Gray strived for when she took the event over more than five years ago. She said that one of the things that was always so special to her about the annual fundraiser was the people who, like the elder Audet, were coming to the dinner for the first time.

“The word is out about this event. The word is out about this center,” Gray said as she reflected on her last Empty Bowls. “This is exactly what I wanted. I wanted to leave knowing that I did my best to get the word out about the center.”

Kim Wettlaufer, executive director of Trinity Jubilee Center, said that Gray was most definitely going to be missed. And while sad to see her go, he knew her decision was the best for her long-term health.

Wettlaufer said that because Gray notified the board of her resignation more than two months ago, the center was able to prepare for her departure and already has staff in place for when she leaves at the end of the week.

“It’s great. This has been a great year,” Wettlaufer said as he sat down next to Gray and looked over to the almost bare tables — down to just 10 pieces of pottery by the end of the event. “This has been the best year yet. What a great going-away present for Dell.”

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