Our Daily Bread offers lifeline to those in need

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Lara Solt/The Dallas Morning News
Violet Hatcher, who lives alone and copes with a disability that polio left in 1952, returns her tray after eating a meal at Our Daily Bread, which serves meals from St. Andrew Presbyterian Church, in Denton on Nov. 15.

Four more years. That’s how long it will take for 69-year-old Violet Hatcher to pay off her home.

“What I get in Social Security is not going to be enough to pay the house payment,” Hatcher said.

That’s why she works as many as 37 hours a week at Taco Bueno. And the $7.85-an-hour job is enough to pay off her mortgage — when she gets enough hours — but that’s all it pays for.

“Social Security takes care of lights and phone and gas and all the little things that you have to have to survive in this world,” she said.

But there’s not much left after that, so Hatcher turns to Our Daily Bread to fulfill her most basic of needs: eating. The Denton nonprofit serves 200 meals a day, every day, Monday through Friday.

The four employees and scores of volunteers there serve meals to folks like Hatcher, living alone and coping with the disability that polio left in 1952.

“Getting a good meal is very important,” said Hatcher, who would otherwise open a can of peas for lunch.

Our Daily Bread began in 2000 as a collaborative effort of 16 churches to feed the hungry. It operates under the auspices and 501(c)(3) status of St. Andrew Presbyterian Church at 300 W. Oak St.

“We feed the hungry, not just the homeless,” said board member Katie Klein.

The agency provides a continental breakfast at 10 a.m. and a nutritious noontime meal.

In the next few months, Our Daily Bread will reach a grim milestone; it will serve its 500,000th meal.

And it might be Jim Warsop, a Vietnam veteran, who receives that meal. Warsop is homeless and said he has relied on the soup kitchen for sustenance as well as supplies for 3 1/2 years.

“If you need it, they can get it or tell you who provides that service,” Warsop said. Our Daily Bread also provides personal care and hygiene items including bug spray, lip balm, socks, razors, feminine hygiene products, sunscreen, over-the-counter medicine and washcloths, among other items.

“We’re giving out a little less than 2,000 items a month,” said Executive Director Mildred “Millie” Bell. And every Friday, volunteers and staff provide a to-go bag of food for the weekend.

The agency has three prongs of support: about $200,000 worth of in-kind donations come via the Tarrant Area Food Bank and local restaurants; about $245,000 in cash donations from individuals, churches, grants and foundations; and volunteers.

“One of the biggest challenges we have is the aging out of volunteers,” said Bell, the agency’s only full-time employee.

Some of the volunteer positions require training and a six-month commitment, the type of commitment that college students volunteering for credit can’t provide.

Increasingly, Our Daily Bread is serving “more young people because the job market is so tight, but a lot more homeless” as well, Bell said. In September, the agency recorded 500 homeless clients; that number jumped in October to 525. That includes transients from Dallas and Fort Worth who take the A-train service up to Denton.

Another trend she’s seeing is people moving to Texas in search of employment.

“For example, a couple came from Maine that said they were advertising jobs in Texas,” Bell said. The couple had a baby and toddler with them.

Bell said that in October the agency received 41 applications for food stamps, a 36 percent increase from September.

“We’re probably going to spin off from the church because the mission has become so large. We’re filing for our own nonprofit to get more access to funding,” Bell said.

In the meantime, Bell is preparing for the winter. Our Daily Bread has agreements with Denton Bible Church and Immaculate Conception Catholic Church shelters to open its doors at 7 a.m. in freezing weather for homeless people.

“They’ve got a warm place to stay until we close at 2 o’clock,” Bell said.

For Hatcher, who was homeless for a time in the 1980s and doesn’t want to go back, Our Daily Bread has been an invaluable resource.

“Without Our Daily Bread, I think there’d be a whole lot of hungry people in Denton. A lot of them would go hungry or maybe do what I used to do — open a can of whatever,” she said.

Nancy Matocha is the editor of the Lewisville/Flower Mound edition of Neighborsgo and can be reached at 214-977-8514 or nmatocha@neighborsgo.com.

 

BY THE NUMBERS

* Clients: 1,100

* Meals per day: 200

* Volunteer shift hours: 1.5 to 4 hours

* Volunteers needed per day: 25

* Others needed to serve as program managers and delivery drivers.

 

Hoops for the Hungry

5 p.m. Feb. 9 — The Harlem Ambassadors take on the Hungry Dunkers, a team made up of business and civic leaders, at Denton High School. Tickets are $10. For tickets or information, call 940-368-4568 or visit ourdailybreaddenton.org.


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