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A community comes together at Loaves and Fishes

Loaves and Fishes is the organization that grew from just an idea in the minds of five ladies in early 2005 to a weekly lunch event that serves nearly 400 local individuals every Thursday from 11:30 a.m..-1 p.m. at the Parish Hall on Lewis Street. How did this happen?

In January 2005, a group of ladies — Gloria, Jane, Joanne, Kate and Muriel — were serving complimentary juice and cookies to flu shot recipients. Later, overcups of coffee, the conversation turned to possible ways the group might reach out to serve more people in the community. Thus, Loaves and Fishes was born. On this day they had no idea how a meal might be served, where it would be served, how many people might be served, or how the project might evolve.

Soon, this same small group was planning, cooking and serving a lunch meal each Thursday at the Parish Hall on Lewis Street. Thursday was the chosen day since there is no meal service for seniors on Thursdays at the Silver Foxes Den.

An article in The SUN and word of mouth quickly spread the news. Soon, local residents — business people, downtown shoppers, senior citizens, the needy and those more fortunate were coming together for a noonday meal, fellowship and conversation. As the group had hoped, this was more than just another weekday meal; it was a chance for all Pagosans to come together and become better acquainted. As many as 400 individuals are now being served at the Parish Hall each week, and approximately 35 meals are delivered to shut-ins.

For the best use of their limited funds the group initially operated under the umbrella of Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church as a tax exempt organization. Soon they became involved with Care and Share, a group affiliated with the Agency for Feeding America. Care and Share has a contract with Kroger, therefore the bulk of the food served here each week comes through our local City Market. The volunteers have learned from the Amana Soup Kitchen in Durango how to obtain and store sufficient quantities of food. Groups who now cook the weekly meal have learned how to prepare tasty, nutritious meals for large groups. Several church groups, civic organizations and individuals in the community have become involved in one way or another in the project.

Now Loaves and Fishes has an official board of directors and has become a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization, The 501(c)(3) status has important advantages for Loaves and Fishes; the organization can now accept donations that are tax deductible. The status legitimizes the organization and removes it from the umbrella of the Catholic Church. The organization can now apply for grants, matching funds, and other financial assistance opportunities that might arise.

There are many ways volunteers can serve Loaves and Fishes” There is a seven-member board. Board members have term limitations as set forth in the bylaws, and the time is ticking on the terms of several members. The board meets several times a year, on an as-needed basis. Grant writers are needed, as are people who have an interest (or past experience) in the area of fund acquisition for non-profits. A part-time program coordinator is also needed. Currently this need is being filled by Cory and Pastor Don at the Methodist Church across the street, and they welcome some assistance.

All the cooks and servers are volunteers, and anyone is welcome to volunteer in this capacity. The wait staff and the groups who prepare the meals changes from week to week — this is not something you have to commit to each week. A small number of civic groups or church groups have volunteered to cook and serve, but more community and church-based groups, or groups of individuals, are needed to step up and serve.

There is never a charge for a Loaves and Fishes meal, so financial contributions (now tax deductible!) are always welcome. City Market is very generous with its donations and assistance through Care and Share. Additional durable goods are purchased by volunteers when they make trips to larger cities such as Farmington. where they can take advantage of bulk purchases from membership warehouses. Another current need is for a new large-capacity chest freezer for food storage.

For more information about ways you can volunteer, contact Pastor Don Ford at Community United Methodist Church (264-5508). Or, drop by the Parish Hall on Lewis Street on any Thursday between 11:30 and 1. You will see how the entire community comes together for fellowship, food and friendship, and you might see for yourself how you can become actively involved in this dynamic setting.

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