26 years of loaves & fish and counting

What Happens When Dozens of Volunteers Touch the Lives of Scores of People in Downtown Peoria 

November 1994.

Prior to that time, the Catholic Worker House was the only feeding site available in Peoria on Saturday, and it served much of our community. Tragically, a fire struck the Catholic Worker House, and they were forced to close.

A call was made to members of our church to see if we could step in, temporarily, to feed those in need.  After all, we are in the heart of the city with a wonderful gathering space equipped with a large commercial kitchen, and a large, active congregation that believes in supporting our community. How difficult could it be to serve a few people for a few Saturdays until the fire damage was repaired?

Unfortunately, the damage to the Catholic Worker House was greater than originally thought, and they could not reopen.

That brings us to November 24, 1994.

After posting pictures of loaves of bread and fish around Peoria, and notifying the surrounding churches and other feeding sites, the Loaves and Fish Community Ministry was born. On that date, we served our first meal to 60 guests. Guests were also invited to select nonperishable food items from a small pantry table.

Today, Loaves and Fish has grown to serve an average of 300 guests each Saturday. Our pantry tables today look more like a small grocery store. This ministry has become much larger than we ever imagined, and it takes an average of 60 volunteers each week to serve. Volunteers come from FUMC; other local churches; area middle and high school and college students; service groups; and those serving community service hours. We even have families that serve together to celebrate a family birthday or special day. Together, we serve as the hands, feet, and heart of Jesus as one family under a loving God.

Loaves and Fish has evolved into a community needs ministry. Many years ago, our guests came to us and said, “You are taking care of feeding our bodies each week, but we are still spiritually hungry.” Many of those we fed on Saturday had no way to get to a church on Sunday. With that, we began a small Bible study that grew and evolved into a full-blown weekly worship service. Today the ALIVE worship service averages 75 guests each week.

The Thomas Phillips Medical Clinic is open every Saturday. Over the years, the clinic has provided valuable health care and health information to our neighbors; saving lives in some cases. Thanks to a relationship with the Methodist College of Nursing, the clinic hosts fourth year medical students that serve alongside our volunteer nurses.

Other community services provided include: weekly adult literacy classes sponsored by Common Place, a clothing room, a flu shot clinic, monthly HIV/AIDS Hepatitis testing, and more.

We mark the anniversary date each year with a fish fry, and look forward to a busy December with a steak fry and a visit from Santa.

Just like the loaves and fish parable in the Bible, we have never run out of food, and have always had enough volunteers to serve. We haven’t missed a Saturday of service for 26 years.

For more information about serving or donating to Loaves and Fish, please contact the church office.