Drive-through soup & online auction round out 14th Annual Empty Bowls fundraiser for local meal kitchen

by Kate Evans

Morgan County Starting Points is holding their 14th annual Empty Bowls fundraiser as a drive-through event on Friday, November 19 from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at the Starting Points location at 106 Sand Mine Road in Berkeley Springs.

All of the Empty Bowls proceeds benefit the Starting Points Mealtime Community Kitchen. The kitchen serves free meals three times each week to anyone in the community.

Soups available for pick-up at Friday’s Empty Bowls event are chicken noodle soup, vegetarian soup and stuffed green pepper soup.

Drive-through admission is the same as before and includes a handcrafted artisan bowl or a community bowl along with food.

The Empty Bowls benefit includes a designer purse raffle, door prizes and an online auction at the J Lawyer Auction Services website. That auction opens Thursday, November 11 to  and runs through November 20.

Supporters can also make a donation on the Starting Points website or mail in a contribution.

The Empty Bowls fundraiser was changed to a virtual and drive-through format for the safety of the community due to the COVID-19 pandemic, said Starting Points Executive Director Audrey Morris.  The event is partly sponsored by a donation from CNB.

Online auction

Items for this year’s online auction include a gift certificate to the spa at Cacapon State Park, a 62-inch wood trestle bench from Caperton Furniture Works, a 3-burner stainless steel Weber Grill from Clark’s, two square yard quilts from Delectable Mountain Quilt Guild members, framed photos by local artists, a hiking basket, Thirty-one Gifts tote bags in assorted colors and sizes and a gift certificate from Canary Grill, Morris said.

A silent auction was held during the annual Empty Bowls benefit for several years.  Many supporters would shop for holiday gifts at their silent auction, Morris said. They can now shop at the online auction from the comfort of their home.

Primary fundraiser

Empty Bowls is Morgan County Starting Points primary fundraising event of the year, Morris said. The agency is a family resource center that provides services, education, information and support to Morgan County families. Services include the Mealtime Community Kitchen and the Morgan County Backpack Program.

Mealtime Community Kitchen

Starting Points Mealtime Community Kitchen serves meals three days a week-on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays-from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.  They have been offering curbside pickup for meals during the pandemic. Community Kitchen meals are served at no charge but donations are welcomed.

The Mealtime Community Kitchen began in 2004 and served around 11,567 meals in 2020.  Morris said that they’ve been serving around 100 meals a day in the last few months, an increase from 60-70 meals.

Meals are prepared by limited staff and are brought out to vehicles and delivered with social distancing.

Before the pandemic, volunteers from many churches, businesses and community organizations rotated preparing and serving the Community Kitchen meals, Morris said.

The Community Kitchen costs Starting Points an estimated $30,000 a year to operate, which includes payroll and supplies. Costs have increased since the price of food, supplies and salaries have gone up, Morris said.  Costs include meal-serving containers, utilities and a part-time salary to run the kitchen.


The Mealtime Community Kitchen receives financial donations from local foundations, churches, businesses, civic organizations and community members and gets generous service and retail discounts from local businesses, Morris said.

They also receive food and produce from the Mountaineer Food Bank, the United States Department of Agriculture, the Farmer’s Market, the Food Lion, churches, businesses and the community.

Serves homeless and hungry

Morris hopes that people will support their Empty Bowls event by attending or with a mailed or online donation on their website.

Many families in Morgan County are dealing with food insecurity and some are homeless. The Community Kitchen serves individuals and families that are struggling to have enough food to eat.

Morris said that there has been an increase in the number of vehicles that drive through to pick-up meals at the Community Kitchen.  Some vehicles are picking up meals for two to three families.  They have a lot of regulars that depend on the meals.

Staff checks on the people that receive meals through the Mealtime Community Kitchen, seeing what they need and helping them with other resources.

Morris said of Empty Bowls: “It’s an important fundraiser for our Community Kitchen.  We rely on those funds to operate the kitchen.  We also fill a need in the community. There are people every day in Morgan County who are homeless and hungry.”