Great soup, great entertainment.

That’s how Leesa Stephens, executive director of Good Samaritan Ministries (GSM), described the annual Empty Bowls hunger busting fundraiser, which will be Thursday, April 4 at the Brownwood Coliseum. This is the Empty Bowls project’s 10th anniversary.

There are two sessions: 

• 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

• 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.

All of the money raised goes to fight hunger, and 90 percent stays at GSM for the operations of the agency’s seven hunger ministries: Food Pantry, Food for Thought, Deer Project, Pig Project, Homeless Food Boxes, Mobile food Pantry and Homebound Program.

“It’s our 10th anniversary of the Empty Bowls event,” Stephens said. “We’re excited about that and excited that the community is excited.

 “What really draws the community to the Empty Bowls project, in addition to it being a fundraiser for Good Samaritan Ministries, is the opportunity to sample a variety of soups provided by local restaurants. We also have what the Chatfield provides, and so does the Heart of Texas Camp and Conference Center. We  have 20 confirmed soup sponsors this year.” 

GSM tithes 10 percent to an international hunger relief agency — the only time GSM sends money outside of Brown County.

For a $10 ticket, diners will enjoy a simple meal of soup and water. They can choose a hand-painted ceramic bowl to take home as a reminder of those who have empty bowls and empty stomachs.

Diners will also have another option: for $25, they can enjoy the Soup Sampler package. They will receive their souvenir bowls as well as wristbands that entitle them to sample as many soups as they would like during the lunch or evening session.

Howard Payne University will provide musical entertainment.

Area high school and middle school art students, nursing home residents, church groups, college students and other community members started working in January to paint more than 1,300 bowls, which have been fired at Kohler, Stephens said.

“Kohler is very gracious to fire the more than 1,300 bowls that were painted this year,” Stephens said. “They do this for us as an in-kind donation. 

Without Kohler’s help, we wouldn’t have the Empty Bowls project. We certainly couldn’t do this ourselves.”

Some of the bowls have been pre-purchased.

“We do have around 200 folks who, rather than have to go through all of these bowls at the event, paid an extra charge, $25, to pre-purchase their bowls,” Stephens said.

Dining options

Stephens elaborated on the dining options, saying, “when you come in, you pay $10. That $10 will give you a bowl to take home, plus you’ll get two tickets to sample two of the soups.

“But we have something new this year. If you would like to sample more than two soups, you can buy a Soup Sampler package. You’ll get a blue wristband. And the blue wristband will enable you to sample as many soups as your tummy will hold.”

Stephens said the Soup Sampler package “had been one of the things that has kind of grown out of the last few years.”


This year Empty Bowls is combining a couple of auction styles from previous years.

A live auction will begin at 12:15 p.m. and run through the lunch hour. “We have a variety of items,” Stephens said. “We have some in-mint-condition American girl dolls. We have some unusual food items, some collectibles.”

In addition to the live auction, a silent auction will run throughout the day. The silent auction will include nine hand-painted specialty bowls.

Seven of the bows represent the seven hunger programs at Good Samaritan.

“We have seven different hunger programs at Good Samaritan Ministries,” Stephens said. “Local artists were selected to do their interpretation of these different hunger ministries.”

There will also be a bowl to bid on commemorating the 10th anniversary of Empty Bowls, and “a special bowl painted by a friend of Good Samaritan Ministries,” Stephens said.

“Those will be available for people to bid on throughout the day. Opening bid on each one of those special bowls will be $50. Winning bids will be announced shortly after 6 p.m.”

Other items will also be available at the silent auction including items donated by the Magnolia Foundation and a gift basket from the Crockin’ Girls.

Resale Store Empty Bowls Weekend

One big change for this year’s Empty Bowls: the Resale Store will not have items for sale at the coliseum.

Instead, the Resale Store will have Empty Bowls Weekend April 4, 5 and 6.

Normally the Resale Store is open the third Saturday of each month. But this year the third Saturday falls on Easter weekend.

“So we said ‘why don’t we have a big Empty Bowls weekend?’” Stephens said.

On Saturday, April 6, the Resale Store will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“All of the items that you normally see at the coliseum — designer handbags, jewelry items, the American Girl dolls, the ones we have that are vintage and collectors items — those are the kinds of things that normally we would have taken to the coliseum,” Stephens said.

“But they’re going to be here on Saturday, April 6 from 10 to 2. It’s more than just a thrift store — a lot of unique, one of a kind items and every dollar that is spent in the resale store goes back into the operation of our ministry.”

There will be far more items available at Empty Bowls Weekend than the GSM staff and volunteers could ever carry to the coliseum, Stephens said.

“Just a number of really nice collectable items — wall art, clothing … it will be a great time to come in and look for things like Easter clothing for the family, spruce up your house with some new spring decor,” Stephens said.


GSM milestones

Stephens noted several recent milestones for GSM.

“Last year, 2018, was our 25th anniversary for Good Samaritan Ministries,” Stephens said. “And then in the fall we celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Deer Project. This is just another really significant anniversary for this ministry, with the 10th annual Empty Bowls project … the fact that we are doing this 10 years from the time it started says our community cares. 

“They care about their neighbors, they care about this community and that they understand our mission, and they partner with us to help take care of our friends and neighbors in Brown County who deal with poverty.”