Pay It Forward salutes Sterling’s Loaves and Fishes program

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Josephine Smith delivers a treat to a youngster at First Methodist Church in Sterling, Illinois.

STERLING, Illinois –

First United Methodist Church smells like a neighborhood diner these days.

That’s where you find the Loaves and Fishes program at 501 Broadway Avenue.  It hosts a free community breakfast for about 100 guests from 8:45-10:45 a.m., each Monday through Friday.

“They inspire me by the things that they do,” said Steve Seiwert, who nominated two volunteers for a Pay It Forward award.  “It just helps me to volunteer more.”

Paul Gould and Josephine Smith are among the faithful volunteers who show up to cook and serve the hot breakfast.

Starting in 2011, the program served more than 20,000 free breakfasts in 2017.

“For a lot of people here, this might be the only meal they get during the day,” Gould said.  “We serve homeless people here.”

That’s why Travis Kershaw from Ascentra Credit Union is here.

“Everything Paul and Josephine do for the homeless really exemplifies the listening, caring and doing what’s right spirit of Ascentra,” he said.  “That’s why we’re happy to give you $300, so that you can Pay It Forward.”

Moments later, Seiwert is off to the church kitchen for a surprise presentation.

“I want to thank you for helping me to get back to the community better,” he said.  “On behalf of WQAD and Ascentra Credit Union, we’d like to present you with $300 to Pay It Forward.”

For volunteers like Paul, Josephine and others from more than a dozen local churches and organizations, this is really a labor of love.

While the free breakfast is important, this is more than a meal.

“Sometimes people will come up to you for prayer,” Smith said.  “Sometimes they just want to talk to you.  They might need help with an issue or something.”

Since the program depends on donations to continue, cash is always welcome.  For more information on volunteering or donation, contact First United Methodist Church at (815) 625-0244.

“We are serving more and more every year,” Gould concluded.  “We love to do it.  It’s not a good thing that we have to, but it’s a good thing that we’re able to do this.”

At Loaves and Fishes, serving meals with a message.


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