Volunteer Spotlight: Loaves & Fishes has 13-year history of serving free breakfasts in Sterling

Director Lois Heerdt (right) interacts with regular clients who come through the door Wednesday, March 29, 2023. With just a few days left in March, Loaves and Fishes has given out over 1850 breakfasts this month.

Just one week ago, I offered an invitation to publish information from groups who need volunteers to sustain them. My hope is that we could possibly connect them to people in the community who have been thinking about volunteering but don’t know how to get involved – or what needs are out there.

I’m happy to say that after the column was published, we were contacted by several groups that provided information about their organization and how volunteers are needed in some vital areas.

As a result, here is our first installment of our Volunteer Spotlight series, featuring the Loaves & Fishes free community breakfast program.

The program, in its 13th year, serves a free takeout breakfast Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday at First United Methodist Church in Sterling. They are currently serving an average of about 155 takeout breakfasts per day. Totally run by volunteers, the group is a nonprofit supported locally by churches, other organizations and individual donations.

Opening on Easter Monday 2011, Loaves & Fishes had its first guest waiting for the door to open. That’s when they knew the need was real.

In fact, organizers two months earlier realized the need. Operating under the belief that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, the group decided it would offer a free hot meal to anyone who came in. They did not have to show need, prove residency or anything else. Loaves & Fishes would simply offer, in Christian love, food and fellowship.

The first week they served a dozen people; by the end of the first month they were serving two dozen a day. At the end of the second month, the head count was over 50 on some days. They now serve 125 to 150 breakfasts each day.

Organizers say that each week, they wonder where eggs and meat will come from or whether they will have enough takeout containers and plastic cutlery. They also fear not having enough volunteers to serve and cleanup.

To get involved with the Loaves & Fishes breakfast program, call Lois Heerdt at 815-499-1706 or 1-815-626-4773.

Charlene Bielema

Charlene Bielema

Charlene Bielema is the editor of Sauk Valley Media.