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The AHC Empty Plate Project

History of the Empty Plate Project

The Empty Plate Project has been a long-standing initiative coordinated by the Association for Humanistic Counseling, a founding division of ACA.  Since 1989, AHC has been coordinating the Empty Plate Project.  Each year, AHC identifies a charitable cause at conference and meeting locations.  After identifying a cause, AHC coordinates the collection of financial support from counselors and other conference participants.  With an average of $3,000 raised per year, 24 years of the Empty Plate Project shows that together the counseling community has raised over $60,000 for organizations across the country.  

The counseling community, AHC, and Empty Plate have also made an impact in San Francesco, Montreal, New Orleans, San Antonio, Washington, D.C., San Diego, Cincinnati, Honolulu, and many other locations across the United States.  In 2002, a special donation was made to schools in New York City impacted by the World Trade Center Disaster.
Following the 2000 ACA World Conference in Washington, D.C., Empty Plate benefited a Nazarene Church, whose minister was a former ACA staff member in Washington. According to Sunny Vassos, a former Empty Plate chairperson, "He [the minister] said it was the largest collection they had ever had." The year's Empty Plate collection was close to $6,000.

Sunny Vassos received a similar testimonial from a nun serving at a New Orleans Catholic women's shelter. When in New Orleans, Empty Plate raised close to $6,000. The nun who contacted Vassos told her that the sisters cried when they counted the money. They had never received such a large donation and had been financially desperate.

The stories from Washington and New Orleans demonstrate the voices and gratitude of Empty Plate's benefactors, which inspires continued efforts to help organizations in conference areas.

While Empty Plate Project initiatives continue to be a success on a national level, other organizations, inspired by AHC, carry the Empty Plate Project to the local level. After the success of AHC's 2005 fundraising efforts, the Oklahoma Christian Counselor Association (OCCA) introduced a new community project for the Oklahoma Counseling Association (OCA) at the fall conference - an Oklahoma version of the Empty Plate Project. Similarly, other organizations have conducted C-AHEAD-inspired versions of the Empty Plate Project at annual conferences and meetings. For example, in 2005, the Association for Counselor Education and Supervision (ACES) conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania collected monies during the President's Luncheon and the Southern Association for Counselor Education and Supervision (SACES) Reception. ACES raised more than $1,200 for the Women's Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh.

2019 AHC Empty Plate Project

While at the 2019 ACA Conference in New Orleans, you will notice empty plates at several events.  This is to represent the need in the community and provide you with an opportunity to donate.

This year’s selected agency is: Sexual Trauma Awareness and Response Center (STAR); New Orleans, LA. A brief description: Since our inception, we have served thousands of survivors and families by offering a non-judgmental, confidential source of support to help them move past the trauma of sexual assault. Today, STAR®’s services continue to expand as community need grows. We now provide confidential advocacy, counseling, and legal services to individuals and families affected by sexual trauma at no cost. We are also engaging in institutional and social change work to build our community’s capacity to prevent and respond responsibly to sexual violence.

If you will be attending ACA and would like to volunteer to help with the Empty Plate Project, please contact Dr. Cynthia Taylor at It is easy to volunteer. You simply introduce the organization, they briefly say a few words and the organization has volunteers send baskets around collecting donations. They then count the money and you let us know how much was collected. It’s that easy and a great event!   

For more information while at the ACA Conference, please stop by the AHC Booth.

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