Christmas not a day off for Dayton non-profit community kitchen

House of Bread's David Hillix, of Centerville, helps prepare a meal Friday, Dec. 25, 2020. Approximately 300 people a day get lunch from the Dayton  organization, which has founded in 1983 and has provided a lunch to the area's homeless and hungry 365 days a year since 2010. ERIC SCHWARTZBERG/STAFF

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House of Bread's David Hillix, of Centerville, helps prepare a meal Friday, Dec. 25, 2020. Approximately 300 people a day get lunch from the Dayton organization, which has founded in 1983 and has provided a lunch to the area's homeless and hungry 365 days a year since 2010. ERIC SCHWARTZBERG/STAFF

For a Dayton non-profit community kitchen feeding people in need, there’s no such thing as a day off, especially when people are hungry each day.

House of Bread serves a lunchtime meal to 300 people in need daily at its facility at 9 Orth Ave. just west of Riverview Park. It as founded in 1983 by Catholic nun Sister Dorothy Kammerer of Sisters of the Precious Blood and Jewish businessman Joe Bettman with the belief that “no one deserves to go hungry and everyone deserves to be treated with dignity,” said Executive Director Melodie Bennett.

“We’re not a faith-based organization but to us, it’s the recognition that, if you’re going to treat people with dignity and recognize that their basic needs need met every single day of the year, then I feel you’re called to do that every day,” she said.

“You can’t take that day off from serving because I don’t think we’re called to serve our neighbors when it’s convenient for us. I think we’re called to serve our neighbors as often as we can and from a House of Bread point of view, that’s every day.”

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The menu at House Bread changes daily. Christmas Eve, a day reserved for “kind of fun” fare, saw the organization serve Walking Tacos. On Friday, Christmas Day, it whipped up a special holiday meal of ham, turkey, mashed potatoes, vegetables, salad, pie and cookies.

House of Bread is about more than just serving food, Bennett said. In the days prior to Christmas, it handed out toys to children. It also distributed socks and gloves and other warm-wear items to people of all ages, something it will continue to do throughout the winter, Bennett said.

House of Bread’s growth over the years has been gradual, starting off by serving meals two days a week and branching out to Monday through Friday then Monday through Saturday and various holidays before expanding in 2010 to its 365-days-a-year model.

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Creating and serving hundreds of nutritionally-balanced meals every day comes with its share of challenges, which the COVID-19 pandemic has multiplied and magnified, she said.

Instead of being able to seat 130 people at a time, it now can only seat 15, with the majority of its meals ending up as carry-outs. Typically, the cooking and serving of a day’s meal is the work of about 20 people — 15 volunteers and as many as five of House of Bread’s 15 staffers. During the pandemic, when the group nixed its volunteer efforts and cut the size of its crew for safety reasons, eight staffers are responsible for each day’s meal.

House of Bread’s meals are always delicious and the kindness shown by staffers and volunteers is “a blessing,” said Diana Aughenbaugh.

“They’re giving their time and I appreciate that very much,” Aughenbaugh said as she ate her meal outside.

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Jeff Meinke, who sat and dined nearby, said what means the most to him about House of Bread is “they actually care about people.” That includes not just providing lunch each day, but also paying people’s bills and giving away clothing and essential grocery items.

“Anything you need and you ask them, they’ll go out of their way to help you get it,” Meinke said. “It takes special people like that to do what they do. Without them I don’t know what I’d do. I’d be hungry.”

To learn more about House of Bread, or to donate, visit www.houseofbread.org or www.facebook.com/365hob.

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