Heartfelt. That's the word Pat Burness uses when she talks about Soup Bowl III. The annual fundraising event for the Clatsop County Women's Resource Center fills the stomachs and warms the hearts of its patrons, who pay $40 to enjoy a meal and take home a piece of fine ceramic art, knowing their contribution will help a neighbor in crisis.

Burness is the center's executive director. In her cluttered but inviting office, towers of files and papers loiter on shelves and desktops, while the walls beam with thumbtacked awards, citations, photos and greeting cards celebrating the agency's accomplishments.

"A woman is like a tea bag," claims a postcard pinned halfway up a door frame. "You never know how strong she is until she's in hot water."

The WRC received nearly 2,200 reports of domestic and sexual violence last year. Trained volunteers operate a 24-hour crisis line for people - not just women - who don't know where to turn. They call to talk to someone about abuse, assault, homelessness, drugs or alcohol.

Center volunteers and staff provide counseling, information and referral, and accompany clients to the hospital when needed. They help file restraining orders, pick up and drop off clients at doctor's appointments and lead support groups for those wanting to heal or change their lives. In an emergency, the center can shelter up to nine adults and children in Bambrick House, a safe home for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

The United Way provides essential funding for the agency to operate. The money received from the local campaign is used to leverage grants from federal crime victim programs, state assistance programs and the federal Violence Against Women Act. Every dollar from United Way generates an additional $3 from the state and federal grant programs that require a local financial match, Burness wrote in the center's 2005 annual report.

Last year, artists who created the woup bowls placed them on the beach with pieces of driftwood. The wood-fired kiln where the bowls were fired was stoked with the tides.Other grant money comes from the cities of Astoria, Cannon Beach and Seaside, as well as Clatsop County. The center also receives funds from crime fine assessments, a marriage license tax and donations from foundations and individuals.

But this income only helps pay for the center's four office staff and a handful of employees who work at the Deja Vu thrift shop at 1030 Duane St. Direct client expenses in 2005-06 are expected to reach $14,000, with the safe house requiring an additional $7,200 to stay in operation. Last year, 820 people in Clatsop County received financial assistance from the Women's Resource Center.

That's where Soup Bowl III comes in.

"Our policy is that the money goes right back out," said Burness, listing prescriptions, transportation, rent, food, gas and car repair among items the WRC helps clients afford. "It enables us to give people what they need."

Iris Sullivan-Daire and other bakers who are part of The Bread Collective will donate six different types of bread for the Women's Resource Center fundraiser. The Bread Collective bakers will be opening the Blue Scorcher Bakery Cafe this summer.Aromatic steam will build in the kitchens of the Astoria Elks Lodge Monday, June 5, as volunteers gather to concoct their signature soups to serve at the 6 p.m. event. Varieties include tortilla soup, vegetable soup and WRC supporter Sharon Beatteay's famous chicken and dumpling soup. Ingredient lists will be provided for the benefit of vegetarians, vegans and those with dietary restrictions or allergies.

Even more savory smells will blossom when bakers from The Bread Collective in Astoria arrive with fresh, hot loaves of their artisan breads.

Ceramic artist and instructor Richard Rowland strengthens the symbiosis between art and community with his contribution of anagama bowls, created in his wood-fired Dragon Kiln by local artists and students. The dragon motif continues as the evening's theme, with decorations contributed by WRC board members, Deja Vu inventory and Tongue Point Job Corps Center.

Attendees and take their time selecting just the right bowl out of the 150 or so on display. Each is handcrafted and unique. "You pick out the bowl that really speaks to you," Burness said.

Artist Richard Rowland and other artists created the unique bowls, many of which were fired in Rowland's wood-fired Dragon Kiln.After washing out their bowls, diners fill them with their choice of soup and top them off with warm slices of bread. They sup to entertainment by violinist Jeffrey Reynolds and blues musician Richard T.

Once patrons have sampled as many soups as their bellies can hold, the bowls are ready for one last course of gingerbread topped with real whipped cream.

"The bowls represent hope and life for victims and children," said Burness. "It's like a full circle - gathering up materials from the earth, people buying the bowls, the money going back to the women and children. Everybody who touches a bowl gets something out of it."


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