In 1983 and early 1984, the pastors of Grace Church, United Community church and the First United Methodist Church began talking about the obvious presence of poverty within Cortland community. The presence of a program called, “Loaves and Fishes”, a program of hospitality and food at St. John’s Church in Ithaca, formed the model for a similar program in Cortland. Conversations continued throughout 1983 and the decision was made within the Grace Church to proceed with such a program. Behind that decision was Bill Greer, Rector at Grace Church.
Grace Church knew that they could not realistically support such an undertaking on their own. Furthermore, it was the original intent of the planners to make this an ecumenical ministry. Early on, an interested group of church members from these churches, plus some from St. Mary’s Roman Catholic, Holy Spirit Lutheran and McGraw Baptist Churches put together the first board and the dream of a “Hospitality Center” was born.
In September 1984, the first meal was served. Those involved waited with anxious anticipation, but only one person came. On the second day, five persons walked through the door of the Grace Church Parish House. By the end of the second week, Loaves and Fishes was serving 35 persons daily and was sure it had reached its limit. But word spread quickly and now Loaves and Fishes is a by-word tradition in the Cortland community. Newcomers to the area who are in need are informed of the location by people they meet and by area human resource agencies. As we enter our 30th year of service, Cortland Loaves and Fishes continues to provide hospitality and over 100 nutritious meals each day.
In 2002 Cortland Loaves and Fishes saw major improvements in the kitchen. Grace Church spearheaded the effort and Cortland Savings Bank Foundation (First Niagara) provided Loaves and Fishes funds to purchase a new dishwasher. Cortland Breakfast Rotary Club and Cortland Noon Rotary Club granted us $1,700.00 to be used for equipment and improvements in the kitchen. Loaves and Fishes also replaced its main kitchen cooler with a grant from the Wilkin’s Foundation. In 2007 the Church completed a total renovation of the parish hall facility.
Cortland Loaves and Fishes depends heavily on donations and support for the various fundraising efforts of the board, supporters and volunteers. Details about each fundraiser can be found in the “Events” section of this website. One time donations, participation in the Meal A Month or Circle of Twelve programs also provides much needed revenue.
The success of our program depends on the commitment of many people within our community. Kim Hill our Director, as well as many volunteers, continue to make Loaves and Fishes an inviting, friendly place to enjoy good food. We also depend on you in many ways; volunteering your time and energy, food donations, your prayers, financial support, and even sharing a meal with us.