According to Co-Chairman Larry Shanks, Loaves and Fishes spent $49,500 on an income of $51,000 during the past year. This was a better year for the organization, which continues to face a decline in customers.
Presently, the service is taking hot meals on weekdays to around 34 clients. That number has grown by a third in the last few months. Cost of meals is at an all-time high of $5.77 per meal to prepare. Cost per meal drops when more participate in the program.
Shanks said Loaves and Fishes spends about $1,000 more per month than is charged to clients. Receiving donations becomes extremely important in covering the balance. Identifying those whose help is crucial to the service continuing, Shanks named many local churches, the Pearl Foundation, Wal-Mart, EFCO Corporation, Tyson Foods, Harlin Fruit Company, and Lions Clubs in both Monett and Freistatt. The celebration tea run by Loaves volunteers had its second annual gathering recently, which was also a major success.
Shanks said as long as the mission of Loaves and Fishes is right, seeking and accepting donations from those willing to help is appropriate.
"The biggest donation is you all," Shanks told the room full of volunteers gathered for the annual luncheon meeting at the First United Methodist Church. He commended those who regularly come to help in all weather conditions. Contact by Loaves and Fishes' deliverers is often the only interaction shut-ins have with the world at large, making the words exchanged, as well as the food, a major contribution.
Mary Kay Scott, co-chairman with Shanks, said Loaves and Fishes presently has a good supply of volunteers and substitutes to deliver meals. One route was cut back during the past year, making more delivery people available. Another route may be cut in the coming year. She said the service is often only needed for a short time, while a client recovers from hospitalization.
Interested persons are welcome at the board of directors' quarterly meetings, which are held at the First United Methodist Church, where meals are prepared. Scott said the board had failed to organize a nominating committee at its January meeting, so she went to the floor for nominations for leadership in the coming year.
The same officers have been in place for the past two years. Several in the audience called for the same people to continue their duties, and the motion passed.
In addition to Shanks and Scott as co-chairmen, those continuing their duties were Darlene Kelley as vice president of volunteers, Phyllis Whitley as vice president of communications and treasurer, Dorothy Cawthorn as recording secretary and Janie Bates as financial secretary.
Emma Jean McCormick serves as the packing chairman. Daily chairmen are Mary Spivy, Dorothy Moore, Jane Patton, Peggy Costley and Scott. Additional board members include Margie Gripka, Ray Spree and Tony Martin. Cathy Nichols is the cook. She is assisted on alternating two-week rotations by Norma Washburn and Helen Beeson.
As a special feature for this year's banquet, Judge Michael Garrett was asked to speak on the subject "Why I Volunteer." Garrett said "volunteer" comes from the Latin word meaning "to will or do something freely." He said those present acted as part of a well-established American tradition.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 61 million Americans regularly donate at least one hour of time to one organization. Almost one quarter of men qualify and nearly 30 percent of women. Parents of children are more likely to volunteer, Garrett said, perhaps because they know people need more help.
Garrett credited his own involvement as a volunteer to his parents, and to the youth group, Scout troop, and teachers who surrounded him as he grew up. Volunteering was more than a whim, Garrett said. It was a social responsibility that was expected. Young people like himself learned more by the model of those in action around him than from spoken encouragement to take up such roles.
"I volunteer because I'm selfish," Garrett said. "It makes me feel good, helping and contributing to the community.
"It's fun It's hard to feel sorry for yourself when you're done helping someone who is in greater need," Garrett added.
Finally, Garrett recalled how Jesus washed the feet of his disciples at the Last Supper, teaching by his actions how to serve, even at his most difficult hour. Garrett congratulated those present for their willingness to serve others and their community.
In offering parting comments and a benediction, First United Methodist Church Pastor Clif Crockett said it was a privilege to have such a program in his church, even if he was challenged by the abundance of food in his workplace. He observed how the Loaves and Fishes volunteers provide a ministry by socializing and encouraging each other while gathering to undertake their daily trips.
"Thank you for the lives you touch," he said.