Martha’s Table replaces annual Empty Bowls fundraiser with car raffle

Martha’s Table is raffling off a Kia Forte EX 2020 on Dec 31, 2020. Photo supplied by Martha’s Table.

Martha’s Table is raffling off a Kia Forte EX 2020 and three vintage bicycles for their 2020 fundraiser. Executive Director Ronda Candy said they’ve purchased the vehicle for the draw, but with a COVID-19 outbreak sweeping the city, getting people out to buy tickets will be a challenge.

“This is our first raffle ever of a car,” Candy said. “We’re only selling 6000 tickets….The thing is with COVID-19, we’re concerned that people aren’t going to be out to buy them. We’re worried about selling,” she said. “It seems like a mountain that we have to get over.”

A long-standing fixture of the community, Martha’s Table offers nutritious meals to people in need. Candy said they made the decision to run the raffle when it became apparent their popular Empty Bowls fundraiser could not proceed amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

Empty Bowls has run for 21 years, pairing local restaurants with the Kingston Potter’s Guild to serve gourmet soups in handmade bowls.

“That event is in close-quarters,” Candy explained. “We normally have about 125 people in one dining room at a time. High crowd, lots of interaction. That’s the excitement, normally. We just can’t host it because of that.”

In addition to the limitation on indoor dining, the pandemic has prevented the potters from being able to meet to make the bowls. “So we don’t have the bowls and we can’t keep people far enough apart to be safe,” Candy said. “We’re all going to miss it. We’ve had people come to Empty Bowls since the beginning, all 21 years.”

“At Empty Bowls, we sell 500 tickets, so that’s pretty straightforward. 6000 tickets is something we’ve never done before so we’re really looking to the community at this point for their support,” Candy said.

Besides the Kia Forte, Candy said they’ve received three bikes to raffle off, a donation from an anonymous local collector. “They’re reproductions of 1955 his-and-hers Schwinn cruiser bikes, and there’s also a child’s bike,” Candy said. The bikes will be awarded as an Early Bird prize, drawn on October 12. Those winners’ names will then go back into the grand prize draw for the car, on December 31, 2020.

One of three bikes being offered as Early Bird raffle prizes. Photo supplied by Martha’s Table.

Candy said that the organizers will be stationing the raffle display, including the Kia Forte itself, at various pop-up sites throughout the City. Martha’s Table will be posting the locations on social media. “We want to make it convenient for people,” Candy said, noting that the first stop will be the FreshCo parking lot, and that they are looking at options such as Springer Market Square behind City Hall.

Tickets can also be purchased directly from Martha’s Table at 629 Princess St. “We’ll bring the tickets outside and sell them in a properly distanced manner,” she said.

Candy said the COVID-19 pandemic impacted Martha’s Table clientele and operations immediately. “It was instant,” she said. “Stopped March 17. Done. We closed our front-door, and we have a pass-through,” she said, a system which allows them to serve meals to a line of people waiting outside the building daily from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. In that two-hour window, she said they serve the same number of meals that would normally go out in a day, 140 on average.

“We’re seeing people that we’ve never served before,” she said. “Maybe people that are newly unemployed. We’ve seen a lot of families come down, small children that we’ve never seen before as well.”

Martha’s Table has also expanded its service from five days per week to seven. “We always had on our horizon to do seven days… But when COVID fell on the city we said ‘now.’ We didn’t plan, we didn’t give it a second thought. We launched right into our weekend program,” she said. “We scrambled but it has been well worth it.”

Tickets to the raffle are $20. To purchase, visit, or call 613-546-0320. For information on pop-up raffle locations, follow @MarthasTableON on Twitter, or @marthasrocks on Instagram. To help sell tickets, email [email protected].

Samantha Butler-Hassan, Local Journalism Initiative

Samantha Butler-Hassan is a staff writer and life-long Kingston resident. She is a news junkie and mom who loves reading and exploring the community. This article has been made possible with the support of the Local Journalism Initiative.

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