Loaves And Fishes a labor of love and thanksgiving

By Sally Neel
Special to The PREVIEW
On Thursday, Nov. 16, St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church will host and serve their traditional Thanksgiving lunch at Loaves and Fishes from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Parish Hall on Lewis Street.
St. Patrick’s has long taken delight in serving a delicious Thanksgiving meal, complete with turkey and dressing, vegetables, salad and a variety of pies for dessert.
“This is one of our favorite activities of the year,” said Fr. Doug Neel, rector of St. Patrick’s. “We order the turkeys well in advance, and gather in the kitchen at Centerpoint Church the day before to do the prep work. But the best part is the interaction with the guests on Thursday. The meal is delicious and those we serve are always in high spirits, enjoying the fellowship and food.”
Last Friday, St. Patrick’s hosted Loaves and Fishes’ annual volunteer appreciation dinner. Board vice president Nancy Crouse announced that over 13,000 hot meals were served in 2016 with over 500 volunteers participating in cooking, serving and cleaning up. They anticipate serving at least that many in 2017.
Loaves and Fishes is a not-for-profit organization that serves free hot lunches to people in the community every Thursday. The organization is totally dependent upon the generosity of its volunteers, who provide food ingredients (Loaves and Fishes provides the meat), do the cooking, serving and clean up for roughly 250-300 people. Some organizations serve once a year, while others serve more often. The organizations include churches and service organizations from Pagosa Springs.
“Every volunteer is very important to this organization,” said Neel. “St. Patrick’s has been involved in Loaves and Fishes since its inception in 2005. We serve once a month eight months out of the year. And, of course, the Thanksgiving meal is our favorite. In truth, we at St. Patrick’s are thankful for the opportunity to participate in this important service to our community. We always go away feeling we have gained as much or more from the experience than those we serve. We love the relationships that have been formed over the years.”
Loaves and Fishes is not a buffet-style meal. Those who come to be fed are seated at a table, where a server offers the guest a choice of a drink (usually water, tea, coffee or hot chocolate), along with a delicious, freshly prepared hot meal. A dessert cart is wheeled around the hall ,offering the guest a choice of delicious sweet treats.
“It is always our hope that our guests feel they have been treated with the respect and kindness. It is our privilege to serve them and we try to convey that sentiment to all who come to enjoy this wonderful dining experience,” said Neel.
In addition to meals served at the Parish Hall, to-go boxes are taken to homebound residents and are also offered to guests who wish to take food to others who could not attend. Just like the name “Loaves and Fishes,” there is plenty of food to go around and it is offered freely to those in need.
To find out how to become involved in Loaves and Fishes, visit www.loavesandfishespagosa.org or call 903-8077.

This story was posted on November 14, 2017.