MORGANTOWN — Thirteen years ago, the first Empty Bowls luncheon in Monongalia County was held at the First Presbyterian Church in Morgantown.
It became too big to stay there, so it was moved to St. Mary Roman Catholic Church in Star City.
As it continued to grow, it was moved to the Mylan Park community center, where it remains today.
The 13th annual luncheon is planned for 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Feb. 23 at the Hazel and J.W. Ruby Community Center at Mylan Park.
It is one of the largest social and volunteer events in the area, according to a press release from the Empty Bowls Monongalia organization.
Relying on donations and volunteer help, the event provides a variety of soups, plus bread, cookies and a drink for $20. Plus, each attendee gets to pick out a hand-painted bowl to use at the event and take home.
Year-round planning goes into the luncheon by many coordinators who ensure things run smoothly.
Soup procurement coordinators work with local restaurants the provide about 400 gallons of soup, which is picked up and delivered by 25 volunteer drivers. The same coordinators are also responsible for collecting the bread and cookies.
Logistic coordinators plan delivery schedules set up of the venue.
Volunteer coordinators plan 500 scheduled shifts for the volunteers who work to make the luncheon run smoothly. These volunteers do everything from setting up, cleaning up, working in the kitchen, serving soup, working in the bowl room and operating the raffle tables.
Raffle coordinators work with local businesses and individuals who donate items raffled at the luncheon. Raffle tickets are 6 for $5, 13 for $10 and 30 for $20.
There is also a handmade quilt donated by the Country Roads Quilt Shop. This year, the quilt is a star pattern. Tickets are available at the Quilt Shop and will be available at the luncheon. The tickets are also for sale at the Empty Bowls Mon office. Tickets for a chance to win the quilt are 1 for $5 and 6 for $20.
Each year, more than 2,000 bowls are donated by members of the community, students, churches, civic organizations, community groups and WVU students. The WVU Bowl-A-Thon is a weekend event where students throw, paint and glaze bowls to be donated to Empty Bowls, according to the press release.
Many individuals and organizations also go to the Wow! Factory in Star City to paint bowls and donate them to the event.
The luncheon helps support 24 agencies that provide hot meals, nutritious food and backpacks to food insecure members of the community. In 2018, these agencies served 126,550 hot meals, as well as 22,804 people at various food pantries in the county and filled 26,820 backpacks with food school children took home on weekends. According to Feeding America there are over 16,000 people in Monongalia County who are classified as food insecure, including over 2,500 children.
- The 13th annual Empty Bowls Monongalia luncheon will be from 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. at Mylan Park. Tickets are $20 and available at various locations, including the Empty Bowls office, 7 Rousch Drive, Westover; 304-241-5510. Tickets will also be sold at the door, until they sell out.