Martha's Table gearing up for flagship Empty Bowls fundraiser

The biggest fundraising event of the year is on the horizon for Kingston food charity Martha's Table, and this might be the most important year yet for the event.

The Empty Bowls fundraiser is a ticketed event where attendees receive a handcrafted bowl made by the Kingston Potters' Guild and come together for a soup lunch, with all proceeds going to Martha's Table.

Executive Director Ronda Candy says donations in general are lower than typical years, as it's no secret people all throughout Kingston and the entire country are feeling the pinch from inflation.

Martha's Table, she says, has certainly not been free from feeling that impact and needs the support with a constant, seemingly ever-growing list of people in need.

"We're cooking for more than 450 people seven days a week," Candy said.

"And we're really feeling that, and donations are down a bit because again every single person in this city no matter what your circumstances are, you feel the inflation."

Empty Bowls is a long standing event that normally makes a significant difference in fundraising for the organization.

In 2020 it was cancelled entirely, and last year's event was restricted due to COVID measures with attendees taking their bowls and soups home with them from an outdoor setup in the Martha's Table parking lot.

This year the event will return to in-person on November 6, being hosted for the first time at Quality Inn and Conference Centre by Division and the 401.

Candy says getting back to a larger, in-person capacity will be an improvement over last year and staff are very excited for it.

Even the stripped back event that was able to take place last year, however, was a huge boost for Martha's Table, and a reminder to the community that the need is great.

"It really is a boost," Candy said.

"I think even more than the financial contribution last year it reminded people that we're in the community, and the holidays are coming, that we still need their help... It's more of a mental nudge that we still need help."

With winter coming quickly, the need could very well grow for organizations like Martha's Table.

Candy, and others who work with the cities unhoused and most vulnerable, are forced to shoulder more of the load as winter comes around without adequate solutions being on the table or discussed with any urgency.

She says they're prepared to help, but it's frustrating for the city as a whole to be continually unprepared for a recurring issue.

"We need to be more proactive... we know it's coming, it's year after year and people need a place to go," Candy said.

"So it's no surprise when we get there and people are cold. It's very frustrating."

This year's return to in-person will see three separate seatings of 100 each, and Candy says they've organized to the event to be spaced out and continue to take some extra precaution as most pandemic restrictions have been rescinded.

Tickets are $65, for which lunch and a handcrafted bowl are included at the event which will also have a silent auction and local live music.

Owen Fullerton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, YGK News