Laura Dean Bennett
Thursday night’s Empty Bowls Dinner was truly a community effort, bringing together local artists in the Pocahontas County Arts Council, students from Pocahontas County High School’s Culinary Arts program and countless community volunteers and business owners who made bread and soup and came to help serve.
“Because of everyone who came to the dinner, and a few very generous anonymous donors, we raised a grand total of $4,300 for the FRN Food Pantry,” Family Resource Network Executive Director Laura Young said.
“It was a huge success!
“Everyone had a good time, loved the bowls and the food, and it seems the artists, the kids and the community want to do it again next year.”
As the crowd in the Municipal Building auditorium settled down to their bowls of homemade soups and bread, Young told the story of how the FRN Food Pantry came to be.
“Of all the wonderful things that the FRN does in our community, I am most proud of our Harvest House Food Pantry,” Young said.
North Central Community Action ran the Pocahontas County food pantry for years.
Becky Campbell called Young one day and asked if the FRN could take over the food pantry.
She explained that she’d received a call from North Central’s home office informing her that they had to pull the project due to a lack of funding.
Campbell and Young discussed how essential the food pantry is to the community, and Young took the matter to her board of directors.
The FRN Board approved the project, even with the understanding that the FRN would not receive any Federal or State funding to support it.
“We knew we’d have to immediately begin to seek funding,” Young recalled.
“The United Way of the Greenbrier Valley was the first foundation to support our work. The Dominion Foundation soon followed, and we were able to serve our clients for two years using those mini-grants.”
“Over the past two years, the number of food pantry clients has increased and the FRN is now serving approximately 450 families.”
As anyone who feeds a family knows, the cost of food just keeps going up.
The majority of the food pantry supplies come from the Mountaineer Food Bank in Gassaway, but the FRN supplements those supplies in order to meet the current demand.
The food cost is around $1,200 per month.
The $4,300 raised by the Empty Bowls dinner will be spent on high quality meat products and other essential food for food pantry clients.
“We are continuously looking for ways to raise the money to support this program,” Young said.
Two local churches and two generous individuals who send monthly donations help keep the shelves stocked.
“The majority of our clients are elderly, living on fixed incomes,” Young said.
“Many of them are grandparents who are raising their grandchildren.
“These are people that we pass on the streets and see in the dollar stores.
“They always struggle to make ends meet. But the winter months are especially difficult. When the heating bill increases between October and April, they use their food money to pay for heat, so that’s when we see an increase in the number of people needing our help.”
The FRN Food Pantry is a labor intensive project, relying on volunteers each month to unload the truck and assist in distribution to the clients.
This is true grassroots social work – neighbors helping neighbors.
“I am both honored and humbled to serve this wonderful community,” Young said, with a catch in her voice and her eyes glistening.
“I want to thank everyone who helped from the bottom of my heart.”
The Empty Bowls Fund-raiser exceeded everyone’s expectations, but then, the compassion and generosity of the people of Pocahontas County always does.
Anyone interested in helping the FRN Food Pantry may send their tax-deductible donation to:
Pocahontas County Family Resource Network, P.O. Box 3 or 821 A Third Avenue, Marlinton, WV 24954.
For more information, call 304-799-6847.
Those who helped to make the evening a success:
Cynthia Gurerri and the Pocahontas County Art Council
Potters: Alison Hegel, Tracey Walker, Kathryn Gillispie, Eric Stahl and Cynthia Gurerri
Bread Makers: Mary Dilley, Sharol Campbell, Dee Hill, Kim McComb and Mary Willis- Elk River Inn and Restaurant
Diana Nelson, PCHS Art Teacher and the PCHS art students, who decorated bowls
Theresa Mullins, PCHS Culinary Arts Teacher and the PCHS Culinary Arts students who made and served soups
Minnehaha CEOS, who provided bread, soups and coffee
Fred and Laura – Al’s Upper Inn Club – soup
Blair Campbell – Pretty Penny Cafe – soup
Dawn Baldwin, fresh produce for soup
Fane and Sandy Irvine, fresh produce and bread
Cara Rose and the Tourism Club
Town of Marlinton for the use of the Municipal Hall
Pocahontas County Free Libraries
And the FRN Board of Directors and Volunteers