by Kate Evans Morgan County Starting Points’ annual Empty Bowls fundraiser returns as an in-person event on Friday, September 23 from 5-7 p.m. at the Alderton-Dawson American Legion in Berkeley Springs. All of the Empty Bowls proceeds benefit the non-profit’s Mealtime Community Kitchen, which offers free meals to community members three times per week. This year’s Empty Bowls fundraiser on Friday, September 23 will be an in-person event at the American Legion in Berkeley Springs from 5 to 7 p.m. Local restaurants donate soup to the Empty Bowls event, and those soups will be available in hand-crafted artisan and community-made bowls, said Starting Points Executive Director Audrey Morris. Small groups of community members made bowls at Frog Valley Artisans on Fridays with artist Veronica Wilson for the event. A silent auction, a 50/50 raffle and a designer purse raffle will be held at the event. Tickets for the designer purse raffle are on sale now and can also be purchased that evening at Empty Bowls, Morris said. Three brand-new designer purses will be raffled off. An online auction at the J Lawyer Auction Services website will also run from September 17 to September 24. Supporters can make a donation on the Starting Points website or mail in a contribution. The Empty Bowls fundraiser had a virtual and drive-through format last year for the safety of the community due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Morris said they’re really excited to be able to see people in person again at this year’s Empty Bowls fundraiser. “We miss seeing our supporters and people from the community,” Morris said. Online auction Morris said they have a variety of items available for their Empty Bowls silent auction and online auction. Items include overnight and weekend packages through Stephanie Rebant of Berkeley Springs Cottage Rentals, a week in a condo in Pensacola, Florida, a side table from Caperton Furniture Works, themed baskets, a Raku hand-crafted bowl donated by Susan Thomas, a 5-inch metal leaf hook donated by Glenn Horr and some new and gently used designer purses, Morris said. Main fundraiser Empty Bowls is Morgan County Starting Points main fundraising event of the year, Morris said. The Starting Points Family Resource Center 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. Community Kitchen meals are served at no charge but donations are welcomed. The Mealtime Community Kitchen opened in 2004. Morris said that they’ve been serving around 90-95 meals a day since April. That’s an increase of around 20 meals from what they were serving previously. Starting Points continues to provide the Community Kitchen meals through a drive-through format. Meals are still prepared by limited staff and are delivered with social distancing to vehicles. “Before the pandemic, volunteers from many churches, businesses and community organizations rotated preparing and serving the Community Kitchen meals,” Morris said. They are looking for volunteers to help in the kitchen. Costs for the Starting Points Mealtime Community Kitchen have increased since the price of food, supplies and salaries have gone up, Morris said. Getting supplies for the kitchen this year has also been a challenge at times, she said. Mountaineer Community Food Bank hasn’t had a lot of food options as they’ve been hard-pressed with donors. Mealtime Kitchen costs have also increased since they’ve had to purchase supplies elsewhere. 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, Food Lion, churches, businesses and the community. Donations of food and produce are down this year but they’re still receiving supplies from Food Lion and Farmers Market vendors, she said. Serves homeless and hungry Morris hoped that people will support their Empty Bowls event by attending or with a mailed or online donation on their website. The Mealtime Community Kitchen serves individuals and families that are homeless, hungry and struggling to have enough food to eat. Many residents depend on the meals. Starting Points relies on the Empty Bowls fundraiser to provide those meals and to run the Community Kitchen. The Mealtime Community Kitchen can be reached through Morgan County Starting Points, 106 Sand Mine Road, Suite 6, Berkeley Springs, WV 25411. For more information, call Morris at 304-258-5600.