You weren’t going find Rita Weis with anything less than a bowl full of cabbage soup at the Empty Bowl Luncheon on Sunday.
The Augusta resident arrived early with a table full of guests to beat the crowd.
“I’m on my third bowl,” she said, pushing a stray meatball around her half-empty bowl. “I think I’ve just about had it.”
Weis was just one of about 600 people who piled into the Augusta Jewish Community Center on Sunday for the 13th annual Empty Bowl Luncheon, which benefits the center and Golden Harvest Food Bank.
More 80 area restaurants and caterers were on hand to provide soup, bread and desserts in the all-you-can-eat luncheon.
As ticket holders arrived, they were guided into a room filled with brightly painted ceramic bowls made by art students at schools in Richmond, Columbia, Burke and Aiken counties.
Debbie Katcoff, who guided patrons through the “bowl room,” said this year’s bowls were made from more than 2,000 pounds of clay.
The bowls weren’t made to be used during the event, though. Katcoff said they serve a higher purpose.
“(The bowls) serve as a reminder that there are people here in the community whose bowls are always empty,” she said. “It’s so important for us, as teachers, to get students to understand the importance of helping out those in the community.”
Carrie Jones, the event’s co-chairwoman, said the event is popular.
“We have a lot of people who come year after year looking for a certain kind of bowl or wanting to taste soup from a new vendor,” she said. “It’s just a great opportunity to come in and eat a nice meal, and it’s a nice little fundraiser for both organizations.”
Event co-chairwoman Susan Steinberg said the luncheon has raised more than $200,000 in its first 12 years. The money is split between Golden Harvest Food Bank and Augusta Jewish Community Center, which uses the funds to support programs for seniors and provide camp scholarships to youths.
The event has grown over the years, Steinberg said, and now includes a 250-item silent auction and a children’s program to promote camaraderie in the community.
“There’s something for everyone here,” she said.