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

7:00 Saturday morning rolls around, and all is peaceful and quiet in Wesley Hall.

Nancy, a Loaves and Fish kitchen coordinator, is the first to arrive, quickly bringing the kitchen to life. In an hour’s time, the kitchen is bustling with other volunteers, working to prepare a delicious meal for our neighbors.

Just a day ago, others helped Nancy prepare the Saturday meal, processing  nearly 500 pounds of excess fresh food that comes in each week from Dunlap schools. This arrangement, thanks to Heart of Illinois Harvest, allows them to be good stewards of the extra food they have, and gives us a good amount to add to what we offer.

By 8:30, a continental breakfast is ready for volunteers which includes Nancy’s homemade banana bread, donuts, fresh fruit, and more.  

As the clock ticks 9:30, volunteers are on the scene from many Peoria area churches, schools, groups, clubs, and folks serving community service hours. Many of them attend other churches, but come to Loaves and Fish to serve and to be a part of this vital community ministry.

10:00 arrives, and guests begin to arrive for the Alive worship service. By the bottom of the hour, about 75 guests are in Alive hearing the Good News of Jesus.

The Thomas Phillips Medical Clinic volunteers are now on hand, and the clinic begins to see the first of the weekly guests. The clothing room is also busy preparing to serve the needs of 70 individuals, as they do two Saturdays out of every month.

In the meantime, volunteers are treated to pizza and homemade chili. Loaves and Fish needs 45-65 volunteers to serve the average 300 people we see each week. The numbers vary, and God always supplies just what we need.
11:30 is go-time, and everyone is ready for the exciting 90 minutes of ministering to come. One by one our friends and neighbors enter Wesley Hall, anxious for a meal, and to socialize with family and friends. Each week at noon, we pause to give thanks to the Lord. This week, Walter, an older man from Germany, leads us in the Lord’s Prayer spoken in German. As he recites the words he has known his entire life, the dining room is quietly listening. As he says, “Amen," many join in to say Lord's Prayer in English.

Finally, as our guests depart, many take time to thank us for the good meal, the food from the pantry, and for showing them God’s love and grace. Before we know it, the day comes to a close, and the volunteers work to get the kitchen and Wesley Hall cleaned up and ready for the next week.  By 3:00, the kitchen lights are turned off, and the volunteers go their own way knowing they have made a difference.

Wesley Hall becomes peaceful and quiet once again.