‘Give us this day…’Dec 31, 2020 11:34AM ● By Tricia Hoadley
Decency, kindness and humanity have a way of filling up all of the holes, no matter the obstacles that attempt to hold them back.
As the calendar year flipped to 2020, the Our Daily Bread Dining Room of MOT, Inc. was clicking on every cylinder of its mission to be the selfless conduit to hope for hundreds of people in the area who badly needed hope. Out of its kitchen and supported by churches, senior centers, volunteers and donations, lunch was served five days a week and dinner twice a week, and at every meal, each one of the eight tables was fully occupied.
Meal by meal, the initiative that began eight years earlier – to prepare and serve healthy meals to the disenfranchised, the homeless and the forgotten populations at no cost to them – was creating a bond of fellowship that could not be unbroken.
When a worldwide pandemic made its way to Middletown earlier this year and forced Our Daily Bread to temporarily shut its doors, the decency, kindness and humanity did not shut down with it.
These beautiful acts merely pivoted.
For the past seven months, Our Daily Bread has been providing take-home meals out of its North Broad Street home to as many as 100 people five days a week.
“We designed Our Daily Bread in a way that allows those who eat here to feel as if they are guests in our home, in order to relax, socialize and enjoy a great meal in the fellowship of community,” said Betsy Cave, president of Our Daily Bread. “When COVID-19 hit, we galvanized and shifted but never lost sight of our mission. It’s thanks to our volunteers, many of whom arrive here for the first time intending to volunteer a time or two, and end up falling in love with the place.”
First founded in 2012 -- when it began serving meals at the Dale United Methodist Church -- Our Daily Bread is the result of what happens when the infectious emotion of helping others meets collaboration. Throughout the year, nearly two dozen area church outreach groups, civic associations, restaurants, businesses and social action committees work together with the more than 300 Our Daily Bread volunteers to purchase, prepare and distribute meals –all of which are compiled in a pre-determined monthly menu that ranges from pizza donated by Pat’s Pizzeria on the first Monday of the month to Fish Fridays to Pasta Nights to themed dinner nights.
Thanks to citizen contributions, the storage room at Our Daily Bread is stocked with non-perishable cans of food, as well as peanut butter and jelly, pasta, sauce, coffee, tea and other much-needed items. In addition to meals-to-go, guests also receive bags of goodies that include fruit, water and sweet and salty treats, and on Fridays, guests receive a complimentary bag of essential groceries, all donated by members of the community and local grocery stores.
During the course of a given week, it is not uncommon to see a pastor mixing a meatloaf recipe in Our Daily Bread’s commercial kitchen, a business leader serving guests at their tables, and representatives from a retirement facility washing and restacking dishes in preparation for the next day. Board Vice President Larry Norfleet, who is also an ordained deacon at St. Anne’s Episcopal Church, regularly steps in to help his fellow church volunteers prepare meals on every third and fourth Friday of the month.
‘It’s helping our neighbors’
“Out of the sincerity of our church groups, our civic groups and our volunteers, we want to do something to help the individuals who are less fortunate than we are, and we have found the areas where help is needed,” he said. “It is the simple philosophies of ‘Help your neighbor’ and ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’
“It’s Catholic, Presbyterian, Protestant and Baptist – all trying to help our neighbors. It has what brought us together, and it is what keeps us together.”
The mission of Our Daily Bread is not only seen in its varied menu, but in its position as a conduit and connector to the many services agencies who provide assistance to those in need. The organization partners with the Neighborhood House, the State Services Center and the Friendship House in Wilmington – all of whom work with Our Daily Bread to link guests to vital services like medical guidance, food stamps, job opportunities and living arrangements. Often, an agency member will visit Our Daily Bread and share information directly with guests.
When Cave retired, she had two primary goals in mind: to cook and to help people. When she joined Our Daily Bread in 2014, she quickly saw the impact the agency was already having on the community during its two short years of existence. Together with other board members and local leaders, she helped to convert what had been used as a medical arts building behind the Middletown Historical Society into a full-service restaurant. Renovation began in 2014, and in 2016, the agency served its first meals at its new home.
To Cave, every meal at Our Daily Bread adds to the already well-layered fabric of its mission.
“There have been nights when I have actually been teary-eyed, because our guests are so thankful for what we have done for them,” she said. “We have heard their stories. We know these people like they are family. There are often moments when I feel as if I am receiving more from Our Daily Bread than those who visit us.”
Cave is not alone in her sentiment.
When Our Daily Bread treasurer Paul Willbanks is not doing the books for the organization, he can usually be found cleaning dishes on the nights when the New Covenant Presbyterian Church – where he serves as the chairman of the Board of Trustees – prepares a meal.
“Every one of us -- every church and organization and business and volunteer – is here to make this little bit of the world a better place, to invite those who need help to leave here after a full meal and feel better about themselves,” he said. We do this because of an outpouring we have for the love of our community, and as a response to our faith.”
Extending that hand
For Norfleet, the breadth of the mission goes far beyond the bounty of the meal.
“We want to make sure that we make this life a little easier for them,” he added. “It’s wonderful to hear the words ‘I got a job,’ or ‘My family is taking me back in’ and ‘You helped me to become healthy enough to prove to my family that I am worthy of returning to them.’
“Too often, there is a gap between a time when someone is given up on and he or she finds his or he way in the world again, and it’s here in that gap that they simply need help to survive. We try to fill in that gap. We try to extend that hand. We make them feel as if someone really cares for them. This is an organization that provides the tools to reach out and provide that help.”
Our Daily Bread is located at 214 North Broad Street in Middletown, behind the Middletown Historical Society. To learn more about how your group or agency can volunteer or sponsor a meal, visit http://ourdailybreadmot.com, or call 302-285-9540.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected].