Talbot County Empty Bowls held its 12th annual community dinner on Sunday, February 23. Volunteers for the cause served 325 guests at two sold-out seatings that evening.
After tallying the proceeds from dinner ticket sales, sponsorships, donations, and the sale of bowls and soup cozies made by the Bayside Quilters, the Talbot County Empty Bowls committee was able to distribute $39,800 to ten organizations that feed the hungry in Talbot County.
The organizations that benefited from the 2019-2020 fundraising efforts include Asbury Methodist Church, Easton; Care Packs, Easton; Christ Church St. Michaels Food Pantry; Harvest of Hope Food Pantry, Easton; Neighborhood Service Center, Easton; Presbyterian Church, Easton; St. Vincent de Paul Society, Easton; Scotts United Methodist Church, Trappe; St. Michaels Community Center Food Pantry; and Tilghman Island Food Pantry.
“The checks we delivered to the beneficiaries of our fundraising efforts were 13% higher than our gifts to them in 2019,” says Susan duPont, who co-chairs Talbot County Empty Bowls with Anna Harding. “We had no idea when we launched this year’s efforts that the organizations that we support would be challenged beyond anything they could have anticipated given the increased needs that accompany COVID-19 in our community.”
Talbot County Empty Bowls was founded in 2008 by Anna Harding. She was inspired to bring this fundraising initiative to Talbot County when she learned how John Hartom, a Michigan art teacher, involved his art students in a local food drive by asking them to make soup bowls that they would give to guests who attended a fundraising dinner organized by the students. The people who came to that first Empty Bowls dinner left with their soup bowls to remind them that others are hungry every day.
“I invited a few friends to help me duplicate the Empty Bowls model in Talbot County,” Harding remembers. “We hosted the first fundraising dinner on March 8, 2009. We were overjoyed to sell 115 tickets and raise $3,800, all of which we donated to a few food pantries who operate in Talbot County.”
Since that first dinner the popularity and the success of the community dinner has expanded every year. The total net proceeds from all Talbot County Empty Bowls fundraising activities reached $238,700 after the 2020 dinner.
Many of the committee members have been involved with the cause for all 12 years it has operated. The group has decided to take a break from the annual dinner.
“Our commitment to providing financial assistance to a select group of community organizations that feed the hungry will continue,” Harding says. “The Mid-Shore Community Foundation will maintain the Talbot County Empty Bowls fund that we established with them in 2009. Donations to the fund can be made through their website at www.mscf.org and by mailing checks to the Mid-Shore Community Foundation at 102 East Dover Street in Easton.”
Talbot County Empty Bowls volunteers will be at the Easton Farmers Market on holiday weekends and during the Waterfowl Festival, selling bowls from past community dinners and accepting donations.
“We are looking at other ways to keep this fund alive because we know that the needs of the hungry in Talbot County are not going away,” says duPont. “Several of our sponsors have already pledged their support.”
Talbot County Empty Bowls has been an all-volunteer initiative for 12 years. “Susan and I as well as the other members of the committee decided that it is time to let others step up to take on the community dinner,” says Harding. “We have developed a simple, effective template for the event and we will gladly pass it on to anyone willing to manage this aspect of fundraising for our local food pantries.”
Looking back on the 12-year history of Talbot County Empty Bowls, Harding says, “Our success has depended on collaboration among so many talented and generous people. We are most grateful to all of them. The kitchen and dining hall at Immanuel Lutheran Church in Easton was the perfect setting for the community dinner. As an artist I am especially thankful for the local potters and high school art students who made and donated bowls that we used to serve soup to guests at the annual community dinners.”
Kiln Born Creations was another perennial supporter of Talbot County Empty Bowls. Members of the community filled Kiln Born as groups went there to paint bowls that were donated for the dinner along with a portion of the studio fee. Soup makers, restaurants, cookie bakers, and other businesses donated the food and supplies used every year to serve dinner guests.
“Individual and business sponsors made it possible for us to give every penny raised from dinner tickets sales and other donations to the Talbot County organizations that feed the hungry,” says duPont. “Some of these philanthropists may never have attended an Empty Bowls dinner yet they understood the importance of providing financial support for our cause.”
Donations to the Talbot County Empty Bowls fund can be made online at www.mscf.org. Checks can be mailed to the Mid-Shore Community Foundation, 102 E. Dover Street, Easton, MD 21601. Note “Empty Bowls” when making a donation.
Anyone interested in Talbot County Empty Bowls and continuing the annual community dinner can get more information by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
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