First Baptist Church’s banquet hall was once again overflowing with people clamoring over soup, salad and empty bowls.

The annual Empty Bowl Lunch benefiting Georgia Mountain Food Bank was held Tuesday. The event includes a lunch featuring soup, salad and dessert, live and silent auctions and a presentation about the food bank’s impact in North Georgia.

Kay Blackstock, executive director of the Georgia Mountain Food Bank, thanked the hundreds gathered for the luncheon Tuesday for their support of the food bank.

“This community comes together like no other,” she said.

Doug Carter, president and broker of Don Carter Realty Co., was the event’s live auctioneer. The live auction included a bowl painted by Brenau University President Ed Schrader; a bowl painted by Frank Norton Jr. with his well-known “chicken people” titled “Who’s Your Mama?”; a bowl painted by University of North Georgia President Bonita Jacobs; a Georgia legislators’ bowl signed by numerous legislators from the food bank’s five-county service area; a bowl signed by former President Jimmy Carter; and a Herschel Walker autographed football.

One of the last-minute additions to the auction included use of Memorial Park Funeral Home’s houseboat with barbecue for 50 people.

Katie Dubnik, food bank volunteer and president of Forum Communications, said the bowl is a commemoration of the Lake Lanier Olympic Park and the 20th anniversary of the Olympics.

Miller is still working on painting the bowl. Dubnik joked with the crowd that the bowl is an opportunity for someone to hold their legislator accountable.

The bowl sold for $2,000, and the live auction alone raised more than $14,000.

The money raised at the Empty Bowl Lunch supports the food bank throughout the year. Brett Fowler, vice chair of the food bank board, said that money would provide more than 71,000 meals.

Guests took home a hand-painted bowl as a thank you and a reminder of the food bank’s goal to eliminate empty bowls and empty stomachs in the community.

“The need is still there,” Fowler said. “With your help, we continue to be able to help families change and impact future lives.”

First lady Sandra Deal was the guest speaker, and she discussed the importance of having “a servant’s heart.”

“In this country, with all of the wealth we have, it just seems unreasonable to think that someone could be hungry,” she said. “And yet, we know that some of our children leave school and their last meal is lunch Friday. They get back for breakfast on Monday. … To be hungry for just a few hours is uncomfortable to us. You can imagine what it must be like for someone who has no access to food for a couple of days.”

Blackstock presented several awards to community donors and volunteers. Board chair Rich White received the Mike Banks Reflections of the Heart Award, which was presented by Banks’ wife, daughter and grandson. White thanked the Banks family and everyone who made the Empty Bowl Lunch possible this year.

“I’d like to thank all the employees who put a lot of work in every day,” White said. “When you come out here and see this kind of turnout, and all the work they did to get ready for it, it’s amazing what they’ve been able to do.”

Original article courtesy of Kristen Oliver of