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Senior project benefits Our Place food pantry

BELLOWS FALLS—Bellows Falls Union High School senior Shelby Stoodley had two needs: to come up with a senior project and to foster her love of ceramics, so she combined them.

After doing some research, she recently delivered 10 handmade bowls to Our Place Drop-in Center to use in their next Empty Bowl fundraiser to support the local food pantry.

“People don’t really know about my interest in ceramics,” she said in a recent interview, an interest that goes back to middle school when she was introduced to ceramics by art teacher Mary Lou Massucco.

“I still have that bowl,” she said.

As a freshman at BFUHS, she first tried her hand at the potter’s wheel with art teacher Anna Macijeski, but was disappointed she couldn’t fit the full ceramics class into her senior schedule.

“Although this devastation pushed me to achieve something else ... to make this more than making ceramics, but making it to benefit the community,” she said.

With the help of Our Place board members Louise Luring and Sarah Campbell, Stoodley researched the event, learning that the first Empty Bowl took place in 1998 at the former Rockingham Motor Inn and has grown to become the organization’s major fundraiser.

During the pandemic, Our Place had to switch to a non-in-person Stone Soup event, but hopes to return togathering in person this fall.

As part of the project, Stoodley will make a presentation to a panel at the school, including research she did on the history of ceramics that helped her discover how art and ceramics benefit society.

“I believe art and ceramics benefit society in many ways,” she said. “I believe that the thought of giving someone a homemade gift made from your own artwork really does make a difference for people, having them feel loved and cared for.”

She sees art as a stress reliever that offers an opportunity for nonjudgmental expression.

In addition to ceramics, Stoodley is active in cross-country and track and field events at BFUHS and works at Village Square Booksellers ( In January, she was named Elks Student of the Month and cited for her contributions to the school and community involvement with the American Legion, Chamber of Commerce, and Rockingham Free Public Library.

The daughter of Lee and Doreen Stoodley of Westminster, she plans to pursue studies as a dental hygienist at the University of New England in Biddeford, Maine, in the fall.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #663 (Wednesday, May 11, 2022). This story appeared on page A8.

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