Fundraiser to Help Oberlin Community Services

Sophia Fast

The Oberlin Pottery Co-op is making over 500 mugs for the fourth annual Empty Mugs fundraiser this Monday, Dec. 17.

Conservatory students will perform an hour-long brass and organ concert consisting of holiday songs before ending the concert with a sing-a-long.

“This event is a really great stress-free environment to put on a concert,” said Caitlin Featherstone, a Conservatory senior who will be performing at the fundraiser. “ It’s just so much fun, especially the sing-along at the end.”

Immediately following the music, the Oberlin Pottery Co-op sells handcrafted mugs for $10 each. Local businesses provide a free beverage with each purchased mug. Last year, Agave provided hot chocolate, Slow Train Cafe and Black River Cafe provided coffee, the Oberlin Market provided tea and Grobe Fruit Farm provided apple cider.

Empty Mugs’ first year, the Oberlin Pottery Co-op made 400 mugs and raised $1,500. In 2011, the Co-op sold 526 mugs and raised $5,600 with the help of additional donations. Both community and College partners give their time during the year leading up to the event to make enough mugs for the fundraiser.

“The holiday spirit is so alive on that evening when people come to participate and work together to make life a little better for others,” said Joyce Parker, potter and Oberlin resident.

Last year, the organizers’ goal was to raise $4,000. Empty Mugs ended up exceeding that goal by $2,000, raising $6,000 for Oberlin Community Services. This year, they hope to raise $7,000.

OCS provides a variety of services to the population of southern Lorain County, last year serving some 6,000 individuals, 65 percent of whom live in Oberlin. The money raised from this event goes toward a variety of services, but the majority of it will probably go toward keeping the food pantry stocked.

“This is one of the most lovely fundraisers I attend all year. There is such a community feel with the potters lending their talent, the restaurants providing hot drinks, the church providing the space and the Conservatory students providing their music. It’s great to see everyone come out and support the community,” said OCS Executive Director Linda Arbogast.

Mike Roest, conductor of the 20-piece brass, percussion and organ ensemble, created the event based loosely off of the Empty Bowls project that fights hunger. As both ensemble librarian and operations manager at the Conservatory and an avid potter, Roest blended these two passions to create Empty Mugs.

“The sing-along portion is pretty powerful,” said Roest. “Not only are the brass, percussion and organ a force to be reckoned with, but the audience really likes to sing. For me at least, standing in the middle of all of that incredible energy is very rewarding.”

First Church has hosted the event ever since it began four years ago. After the church disbanded the traditional Lessons and Carols Service, Pastor David Hill was eager to introduce a new tradition for the holiday season. After a couple years of low attendance, the organizers had to move the mug sale to a bigger space within the church this year to accommodate growing attendance.

“My favorite aspect of this event is that Christ Church, which has been the heart of Oberlin since the very beginning, can once again host a wonderful holiday music service before all the students leave for home,” said Hill.

Empty Mugs will begin at 7 p.m. at First Church on Main Street this Monday, Dec. 17. Admission is free.