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Empty Bowls event raises funds, awareness for hungry, homless

November 18, 2007|By TRISH RUDDER

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - With Thanksgiving coming this week and tables filled with food, it's hard to imagine having to go though a soup line to get something to eat.

The goal of Friday night's Empty Bowls fundraiser at Widmyer Elementary School was to increase awareness of what it's like to be hungry or homeless.

The fundraiser was held in conjunction with National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, which was Nov. 11-17.

Morgan County Starting Points Meal Time Community Kitchen and the Boys & Girls Club in Morgan County will benefit from the fundraiser, said Lexa VanDoren Kirk, a Starting Points board member who coordinated "Empty Bowls: Leave No Child Hungry in Morgan County."

More than 150 people attended the event, and each participant contributed $10 for the soup meal and received a handmade pottery bowl to take home, Kirk said.

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"If we let one person know what hunger does to kids and how it affects their immediate and far-off future, I think the community will take the issue of hunger in children more seriously," Kirk said.

About 51 percent of Morgan County students qualify for the free or reduced lunch program, she said.

Starting Points Meal Time Community Kitchen serves about 830 meals per month - a 42 percent increase over last year, and the Boys & Girls Club serves healthy, nutritious snacks to about 300 children per week, said Audrey Morris, Starting Points director.

"Our goal is for no child in Morgan County to go to bed hungry," Morris said.

The canned donations received at the fundraiser will benefit the food pantries of both Starting Points and the Shenandoah Women's Center, she said.

Many community members participated as "celebrity servers," including Del. Daryl E. Cowles, R-Morgan.

"The number of meals that Starting Points serves is surprising, so we do have a need in Morgan County," Cowles said. "People are hungry. My job as a delegate of Morgan County is to make sure Starting Points has enough funds to continue this service."

The handmade pottery bowls given out at Friday night's event were donated by local artists and Berkeley Springs High School art students.

"This is an art community, and the handmade bowls given out tonight shows the artists care by making and donating the bowls and bringing attention to hunger," local artist Jane Frenke said.

After the event, Morris and five other people, including state Sen. Clark Barnes, R-Randolph, spent the night outside the school to draw attention to the fact that some people have to stay outside and have no place to call home.

Morris said about 150 men, women and children in the Eastern Panhandle are homeless. There is not a shelter in Morgan County, and people must be referred to shelters in Martinsburg, W.Va.

Barnes said one homeless person is too many. He said in many cases, "their life has fallen apart. It's a very real situation, and spending the night outside will help bring a perspective to the reality of the problem."

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