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Empty Bowls gives grants to food based non-profits

MORGANTOWN — The need for food programs, of which Monongalia County is blessed by having many, is only going up.

On Thursday, 24 of the organizations that work to feed the hungry, be it through food banks, feeding programs for the homeless – or by putting school supplies and weekend meals in children’s hands – received a combined $110,000 from Empty Bowls at a grant distribution reception. 

Brian Diller, executive director of Empty Bowls Monongalia, said the once a year gathering also gives everyone an opportunity to get to know each other and be recognized for what they do.

“A lot of these organizations are all volunteer run. And, you know, the fact that they do this day in day out with no pay against, you know, the economy as it is right now,” Diller said. “And the demand for food is through the roof. It’s just incredible. So I love, I relish the opportunity to recognize them for their efforts.

The cancellation of February’s annual soup and bread luncheon due to COVID, the right decision despite the event being Empty Bowls’ largest fundraiser of the year, Diller said, means the $110,000 given out this year was less than last year’s distribution of $158,000. 

“We know it’s not quite what you were hoping for. And truly, it’s not quite what we were hoping for,” Diller said.

Despite that there the goal is to provide emergency gap funding by having an incredibly successful fall fundraiser event on Sept. 30. It will be held at the Erickson Alumni Center with dinner, a live auction, art, games and music. 

Sue Ross, director of Clay Battle Community Services said they most of the new people seeking help are older folks on a fixed income.

“They’re having a hard time because of the gas prices and the food prices,” Ross said. “Course they’re trying to buy their medicine and everything’s going up.” 

While the organization has a thrift shop to raise money to buy food Ross said they wouldn’t be able to do it without Empty Bowls. Besides food costs, Ross’ group is currently dealing with faulty air conditioners and recently had to fix a freezer.

“We just, you know, have those challenges and we’re out there. And if it weren’t for people helping us,” Ross said. “I mean, of course like I said we take what we sell and use that money. But we don’t make a lot; but it is to buy groceries or something that we would need.”