By Phyllis Zorn, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
The demand for meals at Our Daily Bread has remained steady in recent months, refusing to follow the path of the economy, whether up or down.
The difference director Sandy Howard does notice, though, is fewer cars in the parking lot.
“More and more of them are having to walk or ride bicycles because they can’t afford gas,” Howard said. “We feed 200 to 300 every day.”
Howard oversees the outreach project of St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church.
February saw a slight dip in demand, which Howard attributes to income tax refund checks.
“I’m sure that’s gone now,” she said.
She added demand usually is a bit lower right after the first of the month, when people get monthly checks or food stamps.
In addition to providing a hot, midday meal Monday through Friday, Our Daily Bread sometimes picks up the slack when local food banks cannot provide — like when perishable items are needed. A woman recently called Howard to say she needed milk for her baby that the food banks could not provide.
Howard knows many diners by their first names, and they speak to her as she supervises the volunteers, who work a rigorous schedule.
Regular volunteer Debbie Cole is head cook on Wednesdays.
“I’m here from 6 to 1:30, usually,” Cole said. “You hit the ground running.”
First she prepares breakfast for the volunteers, then coffee and rolls or some other easy meal is set out for the clients who come in to get out of the cold or to visit.
Then each volunteer cook takes one of the day’s menu selections and gets busy.
On the last Wednesday of March, 225 youngsters to elderly came in for lunch. The array of food included tossed salad, deviled eggs, cole-slaw, fruit salad, green onions, sausage, macaroni and cheese, potatoes, beans and wieners, green beans, corn, Cajun dirty rice, rolls and desserts.
As for Howard, Cole’s evaluation is succinct: “Sandy’s a drill sergeant, but she’s got a heart of gold.”
Cole said she’s concerned about the need for more volunteers, especially since Howard is going to be missing in action for several weeks because of health issues.
“We need more volunteers,” she said. “The crew out here is getting older and older. We know it’s hard for the younger ones to get in here, but we need more volunteers.”
Many, like Cole, give one day a week,.
Jumbo and United stores donate to Our Daily Bread, and donations also come from Horn of Plenty, local restaurants, churches and individuals.
Ordinarily all cooking is completed by 10 a.m. and the lunch line starts half an hour later. By noon, the door usually is locked so volunteers can begin cleaning up and get off their feet long enough to eat lunch.
It’s not easy work, but it is work that volunteers say makes them feel good.