“The St. John’s Breadline not only feeds the body, it feeds the soul,” says Rochelle Logan, a longtime volunteer and Springfield resident.
And she’s right.
Each day, hundreds of people line up at the building on Fifth Street in Springfield to get a hot meal free of charge. The people who fill the Breadline are diverse, but they all have something in common: They are hungry. And many are broken.
Yet, most of the guests who walk in come bearing a smile.
“The Breadline gives them an opportunity to forget about their troubles. Everyone’s comfortable with each other. They get to sit down in one place at one time and socialize with one another, and that’s a beautiful thing to see. That’s important. Because we as humans need human contact,” Logan says.
The ever-growing crowd is a testament to the need for the St. John’s Breadline in the community. “When I first started volunteering, the first two weeks of the month would be really slow. The third week we would get a buildup and the fourth week we would be full. Now, we’re full from the first week because money doesn’t go as far as it used to,” says Logan.
She says the need is also felt through the genuine appreciation in the guests’ voices. “You feel it. You feel that they are truly grateful for what you are doing. They tell you, ‘We appreciate you. Thank you. God bless you.’ And it’s not forced.”
In 2013, the Breadline served nearly 200,000 meals. “Where would those people have gone to eat when they were hungry? In our busy lives, we have a tendency to forget that there is another subculture that is here that we need to be aware of and help whenever possible. We know there’s a need and we have a community that’s actively involved in attempting to address that need.”
Sometimes that need extends beyond a meal, and Logan says she has personally witnessed the staff at the St. John’s Breadline go beyond feeding the visitors. “They do referrals. They find out what that person needs. They worked on getting a woman into an assisted living facility. I’ve seen them help a child get a coat. They help people get jobs. That’s another added benefit of the Breadline. It doesn’t just stop with a meal.”
The St. John’s Breadline also passes out extra bread, baked goods, produce, and other items on the verge of their expiration date that have been donated by local stores for the guests to take home.
Logan added that the guests aren’t the only ones who benefit from the Breadline. “Volunteering shows you how blessed you are when working with people who are less fortunate. It’s an enriching experience. The Breadline has given me more than I have contributed to the operation personally, spiritually, and educationally.”