An empty bowl can signify hunger, but also represent need. The filling of a bowl, the outstretching human hand to help another fill that need.
That’s the idea behind the 3rd annual Empty Bowls of Carroll County event, scheduled for Sunday, March 31, at the Portico at St. John Catholic Church, according to Brenda Meadows, executive director of The Shepherd’s Staff, which organizes the event.
“The event itself is meant to be a humble event and really sort of recognize there are people out there hungry. And not just hungry from the perspective of actual food, but hungers of all types,” Meadows said. “There are people out there in need every day, which then draws on the humbleness of the simple soup, and we provide the bowl, which is a symbol of hunger.”
A range of school groups, scout troops, churches and other volunteers creating the decorative ceramic bowls for the event, between 600 and 700 of them, which those who attend will use to sample soups and bread prepared by local restaurants, according to The Shepherd’s Staff Marketing Manager Ellen Nestorick.
“Right now we’re up to 17 restaurants, and then they will get to pick one of those ceramic bowls that were painted,” Nestorick said. “The bowl they can take home.”
Restaurants providing soups include Bud’s at Silver Run, The Food Chick, Giulianova's, Mediterraneo, Rare Opportunity Bakehouse and Uncle Matty's Eatery, among others.
Tickets are $16.50 a person and available online at emptybowlscc.brownpapertickets.com.
“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,” Nestorick said.
As of Feb. 13, there were roughly half of the 600 total tickets available to the event left unsold, according to Meadows.
“If people are interested in attending, they probably should go to the website and try to sign up for their tickets, because I have a feeling they are going to be gone,” she said.
While tickets are being sold, bowls are still being created, including a Sunday painting session at Cob51 Art Studio, now located next to Auntie Anne’s pretzel shop in TownMall of Westminster.
“We’ve done it the last two or three years and we’ve probably donated 200 bowls or more between all the groups that paint,” said Lisa Martin, owner of Cob51. “We’ve had several girl scout troops book events with us and paint bowls for the donations. A church group down in Glyndon is going to do a bowl painting event.”
In fact, given the large number of bowls needed for the event, that’s one thing those interested in helping out or donating to The Shepherd’s Staff could do, according to Meadows.
“If there was any place I would say there is a need to be filled, I would say it’s in making bowls,” she said. “If folks are interested they can reach out to Cob, I am sure she can absorb them and I am sure other ceramics locations would be willing to do that as well.”
Interest in the Empty Bowls of Carroll County event has been heavy and growing since the inaugural event in 2017, according to Meadows.
“It’s been actually quite incredible. For the first year we had about 125 tickets sold, pre-sold,” she said. “That immediately told us we had to change venues so that we could capture the additional people who were interested in the event.”
The event moved from St. Paul’s United Church of Christ, in Westminster, to the Portico in 2018, Meadows said, and if interest continues to grow, another change of venue is not out of the question.
“There is always the possibility that it could grow larger,” she said. “If the reception is as it has been, we’re going to have to have some creative ways to handle some additional folks.”
This year’s event will already be a little different than 2018, Nestorick said, in that tickets are being sold for three different “shifts,” to ensure everyone can be served in a reasonable time frame.
“We have three different shifts, so you can pick 11 a.m. to noon 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. or 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.,” she said.
And so they will get creative, but the continued growth and interest in the Empty Bowls event is only a positive for The Shepherd’s Staff, according to Meadows.
“We’re trying to look ahead and were just blown away by the support of the community for the event,” she said. “Ultimately this is all for folks who are out there struggling.