The Loaves and Fishes is a Ministry that provides a hot meal on Wednesday nights from October through April for those in need. Our guests are the hungry in our communities and may include the homeless, families trying to make ends meet, and individuals seeking company at meal time. Guests are invited into the St. Celestine School Annex at 6:30 PM.
Meals are provided by cooking teams who plan, purchase, cook, serve, and clean up. All meals are prepared on–site according to health department sanitation standards. Teams usually arrive at the serving sites at 5 PM to begin meal preparation. Serving begins at 6:30 and continues until 7:30 PM.
The program is run entirely by volunteers.
Meals are nutritionally-balanced and include meat, vegetables, salad, fruit and dairy as this meal may be the only one guests eat that day. Volunteers have served as many as 60 guests in a night but usually average 5-10.
Donations from area businesses are always welcome, however, we are not allowed to accept food that has already been prepared or is left over from another event.
Donations from local community groups such as Kiwanis, the Rotary, and Lions Clubs have helped to purchase necessary equipment as well as food, paper goods, and beverages. Other income to support the program has come from the community Ecumenical Thanksgiving services in Elmwood Park, Franklin Park, and Northlake as well as from “Souper Bowl Sunday,” a national program to raise funds to combat hunger.
Loaves and Fishes is governed by a Board of Directors consisting of clergy and lay persons from the volunteer churches. Additional planning support is always welcome.
Loaves and Fishes Program History
- 1995 – Clergy and laypersons from various churches meet to consider how to help the hungry in Leyden Township. After twelve months of discussion, planning and prayer, the Loaves and Fishes program is created.
- 1996 – Two sites are established initially to prepare and serve hot evening meals: Resurrection Lutheran Church (Franklin Park) and Apostles’ Lutheran Church (unincorporated Leyden Township). St. Celestine Catholic Church (Elmwood Park) begins serving in October.
- 1997 – The Elmwood Park United Methodist Church becomes a site. The Loaves and Fishes program operates four nights per week, October through March.
- 1998 – Monthly board meetings lead to the improvement of the overall organization and coordination of the program. The responsibilities of participants are clarified: board members, volunteer coordinators, site managers, team leaders, cooking teams, and other personnel.
- 2000 – First United Methodist Church (Franklin Park) becomes a serving site on Friday nights.
- 2001 – The serving season is extended from October through the end of May.
- 2002 – Over 4,000 meals were served at the five sites during the eight-month season.
- 2005 – PADS (Providing Advocacy, Dignity, and Shelter, a comprehensive approach to homelessness) program was established at Resurrection Lutheran Church in Franklin Park.
- 2008 – St. Celestine Teen Ministry and the Knights of Columbus joined with Loaves and Fishes to provide lunches for the PADS program at Resurrection.
- 2009 – The serving season has joined the PADS program and serves meals from October through the end of April.
- 2010 – St. Beatrice parish becomes a serving site on Friday nights.
- 2019 – St. Mother Guerin parish continues the 23rd serving season started at St. Celestine.