The Fishes and Loaves ministry at Churubusco United Methodist Church, previously known as “Bread Day,” has truly multiplied to feed thousands. Named after the miracle of Jesus multiplying the loaves and fishes to feed thousands, the ministry is meeting the needs of people across five counties.
CUMC volunteers, largely retirees, welcome community members to visit their food pantry and participate in a weekly “drive-through” that served over 22,000 families in 2020.
Today, Fishes and Loaves is a multi-faceted operation that has taken over a wing of the church, and then some. Most rooms include wall–to–wall shelving. One room houses freezers and refrigerators, filled with everything from salmon to pizza, wedged together with a small path between. Packs of diapers line the back wall, not letting a square inch go to waste, and the opposite wall holds more pantry items and toiletries. In another room is baby gear: cribs, diaper pails, swaddles, and toys.
But Fishes and Loaves is not contained by their walls. Outside the church building is a walk-in refrigerator and a walk-in freezer. They were purchased through a combined effort of grants and donations from the congregation in 2020.
During the week, volunteers walk with guests through the food pantry to get anything needed. They typically serve 20-25 families per week. Families get connected to the church in a variety of ways, usually through word of mouth or a social service.
Stan and Doris Horne started serving as Executive Directors of Fishes and Loaves in early 2020, just before COVID-19. When the pandemic hit, they led the way in re-visioning the ministry.
Families can shop at the food pantry once a month, then come weekly to the “drive-through” where they receive pre-packaged groceries.
Beginning around 12:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, volunteers start packing bags. Families receive two paper grocery bags filled with canned goods and bakery items, as well as a box of fresh produce, milk, and eggs from a local farm.
Volunteers are usually greeted with a string of cars wrapped around the parking lot. While some volunteers welcome families and load up trunks, Rev. John Huff walks around with candy visiting the waiting cars. He’ll talk with them about their family and work, offering mobile pastoral care and prayer.
For many of these families, CUMC has become their spiritual home, and some have started to attend worship and even volunteer with the Fishes and Loaves ministry.
With a bit of a twinkle, several volunteers asked, “Have you seen that room over there yet?” The room in question is “the bike room,” where nearly a dozen shiny, new bikes are waiting for an owner. When a child is placed in a new foster home via Child Services, they are referred to Fishes and Loaves to choose a bicycle.
Where do all the items at Fishes and Loaves come from? Stan and Doris brought some connections with them from their previous work with Parkview Hospital. Stan worked as the head chef and many of his former colleagues give him a call whenever there are items that can’t be used within Parkview.
Fishes and Loaves connections extend beyond that, too. The ministry has built relationships with Community Harvest, Target, Walmart, and local suppliers.
When a local Target remodeled their store, brand new baby gear was donated. Fishes and Loaves took this merchandise to of Whitley County, a non-profit providing items for babies, toddlers, and children. When they received men’s belts, underwear, and clothing, they donated them to the veterans home and rescue mission.
Truly, Fishes and Loaves has been able to bless and reach others beyond food.