Local potters will come together next week at the Eagan Art House to make hundreds of beautiful bowls, each its own distinctive piece of art.

The Jan. 9 event is a prelude to the Open Door’s seventh annual Empty Bowls fundraiser to be held March 3 at St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Eagan. Organizers hope to complete 200 bowls at the event; another 200 bowls were finished in September.

Volunteers are needed to keep the potters supplied with food and materials, said Nancy Wester of the Open Door.

The Open Door serves 5,500 to 6,000 people each month with food shelves in Eagan and Lakeville, a mobile pantry that visits seven sites and a summer lunch program for children.

It also runs Garden to Table, with six sites and 150 plots, so people can grow their own healthy food, and provides advocates to link clients to other social service agencies. Clients include everyone from single parents and college students to seniors, Wester said.

“We have not really seen the numbers drop as the economy supposedly gets better,” she said. “People are working two jobs … transportation can be an issue. There can be medical issues, all draining on an income that may not be that great.”

At the Empty Bowls fundraiser, attendees make at least a $20 donation, choose a bowl and have it filled with soup from one of about 10 donor restaurants. At the end of the night, the attendees take their bowl home “as a reminder of those who are hungry in our community,” Wester said.

Last year, the fundraiser attracted 600 to 700 people and raised $30,000. The soup and bread were donated by Qdoba, Noodles & Co., Doolittle’s, Jensen’s, Granite City, Hoolihan’s and other restaurants.

Wester said they hope to have 1,000 people this year. A $3 ticket also buys a chance to win one of 10 pieces of donated artwork — jewelry, photography, pottery and more.

Empty Bowls is about more than raising money, Wester said. It brings the community together to have fun and raises awareness of hunger issues in their community.

“It’s crowded, it’s festive,” Wester said.