Filling Empty Bowls: Local restaurants, volunteers feed supporters, raise money for The Shepherd's Staff

The program handed out to those who attended the Empty Bowls fundraiser on March 31 put on by The Shepherd’s Staff said it all: A simple meal of soup and bread and a handcrafted bowl to take home as a reminder of those whose bowls remain empty.

This year marked the third Empty Bowls event by The Shepherd’s Staff and thanks to a collaboration with community organizations and local businesses, particularly the 18 restaurants who contributed more than 200 gallons of a wide variety of soups, over 600 people turned out and were fed during three sold-out sessions at the Portico at St. John Catholic Church in Westminster.


Brenda Meadows, executive director of The Shepherd’s Staff, said they met their goal of raising $16,000.

“All the proceeds go to the The Shepherd’s Staff, their emergency and crisis assistance program, and that goes directly to help those in need in Carroll County,” Marketing Manager Ellen Nestorick said prior to the event.

The Shepherd's Staff will hold its 3rd annual Empty Bowls of Carroll County event on March 31, a meditation on needs and a fundraiser to help the nonprofit support those in need in Carroll County.

Meadows said she was “speechless” at the support shown.

“For us, Empty Bowls is not just about the money. Yes, it’s a fundraiser, but it’s so much more,” she said via email. “For the first three months of the year, it’s all about community; the churches, restaurants, sponsors, local businesses, in-kind donors, bakers, volunteers, the media, the folks we serve, the list goes on. It all comes together that day and benefits folks suffering from hunger in so many forms.”

The Shepherd’s Staff is a Christian outreach and support center serving those in need and encouraging pathways to self-sufficiency.

According to information provided by the nonprofit, The Shepherd’s Staff helped more than 10,000 individuals in more than 4,000 households — including 471 new households — in 2018. That help included more than 3,000 during their Call for Coats, nearly 1,300 during their back-to-school and year-round essetnials drive, more than 1,300 with Easter baskets, more than 4,000 with their Take-a-Book project, and more than 4,000 meals served at The Shepherd’s Table Noon Meal.


Meadows explained the importance of Empty Bowls.

“It helps us to get the word out about not only The Shepherd’s Staff, but about the needs in our community and how we are able to meet those needs because of fundraisers like this. It also helps us get the word out that we are privately funded,” she said. “In addition, it is our hope that it helps to introduce the participating restaurants, sponsors and other participants to folks that may not be aware of them.

The Shepherd's Staff, a Westminster-based private nonprofit, addresses needs that others can't for their clients.

“This fundraiser is integral to our operation. A large percentage of our outreach budget comes from events we host,” she continued. “We do not apply for federal, state or county funding so the success of these events is vital to the success of the organization.

“The bowls are an integral part of the event, not only are the empty bowls a literal symbol of hunger, but they help to bring the community together. That includes schools, church groups, scouts, ceramic and pottery shops (and others) and new this year we were able to have bowl sponsors so other nonprofits like Silver Oak Academy and the Boys & Girls Club [of Westminster] could participate by making bowls.”

The following restaurants provided soup for Empty Bowls:

  • The Buttersburg Inn (two soups);
  • Molli’s Cafe (two soups);
  • Bud’s at Silver Run;
  • Forbidden City;
  • Giulianova;
  • Greenmount Station;
  • LunaZul;
  • Maggie’s
  • Mediterraneo;
  • O’Lordan’s Irish Pub;
  • Oscar’s Alehouse;
  • Rafael’s;
  • Rare Opportunity Bakehouse;
  • RockSalt Grille;
  • Silver Oak Academy;
  • The Food Chick;
  • Top Nosh;
  • Uncle Matty’s Eatery.

Bowls were created and provided by:

  • Boys & Girls Club of Westminster;
  • COB51 Art Studio
  • Firehouse Pottery & Arts;
  • Girl Scout Troop 1026;
  • Manchester Valley High School;
  • Meltdown DIY Art Studio
  • North Carroll Middle School;
  • Shiloh Pottery;
  • Silver Oak Academy;
  • Small Farms Ceramics;
  • Sykesville Pottery and Art Center.

Additionally, coffee was provided by Furnace Hills Coffee and numerous volunteers helped out in preparation and on March 31.

Meadows said she is astounded at how the event has grown in three years and noted that they are already lining up sponsors for next year.

“We’re trying to look ahead and were just blown away by the support of the community for the event,” she said prior to the event. “Ultimately this is all for folks who are out there struggling.”

Brenda Meadows is the executive director of The Shepherd's Staff.
Brenda Meadows is the executive director of The Shepherd's Staff. (Phil Grout/for Carroll County Times)

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