Fishes & loaves goal: Add warehouse and offices, expand services

Friday , September 21, 2012 - 4:39 PM

OGDEN — What started out as one person’s one-time donation and an effort to feed a few families has grown into plans to become central Ogden’s go-to spot for food and personal needs.

Elim Lutheran Church, 575 23rd St. in Ogden, is running a small monthly food distribution of items from the Utah Food Bank, called Fishes & Loaves.

But the church’s goal in the future is to build a warehouse on its property that would allow on-demand food distribution and offices for social workers.

“Jesus took so few resources and turned it into feeding so many,” said Tom Robertson, co-director of the program. “We started so small. God is working through us to magnify our limited resources and grow them.”

The monthly food distribution, now set for the first Thursday following the first Monday of each month, serves residents who live between 12th Street and 30th Street, Wall Avenue and Harrison Boulevard.

“We feel that Catholic Community Services and the Salvation Army do a good job serving their geographic areas,” Robertson said. “We feel like Elim is geographically located where we could serve those in our area.”

Local residents who are in need of the food usually start registering around 1 p.m. on the day of distribution.

A small semitrailer filled with the items usually arrives around

2:30 p.m. volunteers spend about an hour organizing the food into a collection for each registered family, and then the items are handed out.

“It’s a beautiful thing to watch,” Robertson said, “with many people unloading the pallets and dividing up food in various bags.”

Generally about 125 to 150 families come each month for the food help.

What has become a monthly mobile food pantry for a sizeable number of families started out with just a $5,000 donation each month effort to feed six families who were identified by Dee Elementary School as most in need.

“Almost two years ago, we had a small donation from a member of our church who wanted the money used for feeding the poor,” Robertson said.

From there, the church became connected with the Utah Food Bank and was identified as a monthly drop site.

Organizers say there is a real need in that area of Ogden, as those who can’t afford food also can’t afford transportation to the Salvation Army or across town to the Joyce Hansen Hall Food Bank.

“We are so grateful for the food that the Utah Food Bank has given,” Robertson said.

But he’s hoping other churches in the area will join with Elim to build up the program even more.

“If we could become a central hub, maybe we could serve all the people better,” Robertson said. “We would have economies of scale.”

Robertson said organizers are starting to look at the church property and draw up plans for what the future warehouse and office complex may look like.

“We want to build offices for social workers to help people,” Robertson said.

In the future, Fishes & Loaves organizers want to build up the effort to be much like the Bountiful Food Pantry.

“The Bountiful Food Pantry is so wonderful and beautiful,” Robertson said. “We want to have a warehouse that is a nice size, with open space and a store front.”

In the near future, the church likely will start to hold fundraisers for the project.

And Robertson said he would like to see the program grow even larger than the Bountiful Food Pantry.

“They said we need a lot more offices than they have there,” he said.

For information, call the church at 801-394-5543.

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