By Devika Koppikar
Cindy Shao’s 7-year-old daughter, Annie Chang, learned about Dr. Martin Luther King in school. But this year, Shao, president of the Asian American Chamber of Commerce wanted Annie to experience a deeper lesson on the significance of the day.
“Martin Luther King Day is not for a holiday or barbequing,” Shao told her daughter as they were driving to the Clay Café Studio in Chantilly. “It’s about service.”
For the holiday honoring the late civil rights legend, Clay Café Studios opened its doors for the community to paint pottery bowls and donate the creations to Our Daily Bread (ODB), a Fairfax nonprofit focused on ending hunger, homelessness and poverty.
Studios owner and Herndon Councilmember Grace Han Wolf donated all the material for the event.
“Participants simply donate their time and talents,” she said.
Normally, customers pay $18 for buying pottery and painting it at the Studios. They return two days later to pick up the painted pottery. But on this day, Wolf provided participants with free pottery that will be donated to ODB.
Shao said, “My daughter thought she was going to keep the bowl, but I told her, ‘no,’ it was for a donation to help people less fortunate than her.”
More than 50 community members participated in the event sponsored by the Jade Philanthropic Society (JPS) on Jan. 20. Wolf expected about 300 bowls to be painted and donated. The mostly Asian American crowd also included community representatives such as Mike Collins, Fairfax County Director for U.S. Rep. Gerald E. Connolly and Stacey A. Kincaid, Fairfax County Sheriff.
Wolf said, “Asian Americans are not well known for volunteering. If they do volunteer, it is often within their own communities. Today, we are encouraging them to go outside of their comfort zones. We also want to challenge Asian Americans to see that if you help everyone (all community members), the help will come back to you.”
Heather Webb, Communications Manager of ODB said that at any time, their organization is providing delivered food for more than 60 needy families. The organization also provides financial assistance for those struggling with rent and utility payments. In addition, beneficiaries also have access to a financial literacy program where they can learn budgeting and money management skills.
Webb said that the bowls will be used for the Feb. 27 “Empty Bowl” fundraiser, where ticket purchasers receive the ceramic bowls filled with soup. Proceeds from the fundraiser go toward ODB’s programs. Annually, the event nets $20,000, Webb said.
“In Fairfax County, one of the wealthiest in the nation, more than 76,000 people, including 46,000 children are food insecure,” said Webb. “There is no reason for anyone in such a wealthy county to be hungry and homeless. That is why we are grateful for what the Jade Philanthropic Society, Councilmember Wolf and the Asian American community are doing today.”
Virginia Cheung, JPS Board Member said, “We are all part of the same community. Through this and other community service projects, we hope to go beyond Asians doing things only for Asians.”