Inspire Dayton: Retired baker loved by many for his love of feeding others

Founder Bill Evans brings more than 30 years of expertise in baking biscuits, cookies, cakes, pastries, and other delights to the community through Set The Banquet Table. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF
Founder Bill Evans brings more than 30 years of expertise in baking biscuits, cookies, cakes, pastries, and other delights to the community through Set The Banquet Table. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF

Credit: Marshall Gorby

Credit: Marshall Gorby

If Bill Evans is involved in a charitable project, success, and warm baked goods, will soon follow.

The founder and operator of Evans Bakery for 35 years with his wife Rosemary, Evans is a 76-year-old, Dayton transplant from New Jersey. Since his arrival in 1967, Evans has been a philanthropic force — and most recently founded Miami Valley Meals, a coalition of Dayton chefs working to feed families struggling with hunger due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’m a retired baker,” Evans said. “So if there’s not a piece of bread with my meal, the meal doesn’t taste as good.”

The Dayton region is known for coming together to help one another in difficult times. Throughout the past month, the Dayton Daily News has published the stories of people who have persevered and inspired others during this challenging year.

Even when striving to produce thousands of meals at an efficient price, recipients can be sure the meal is up to Evans’ standards — put together with care, love and most importantly, with a piece of homemade bread.

ExploreChefs prepare thousands of Thanksgiving meals to give ‘breather’ to less fortunate

“He isn’t stopping one bit,” said Kary Ellen Berger, Miami Valley Meals administrative coordinator. “His energy is contagious. You know, you walk in a door and he has 10 ideas that all could go into place right now with the right people. And he knows the right people to make those ideas happen.”

In 2015, Evans founded and was the executive director of Set the Banquet Table, a small, nonprofit operation where Evans hosted baking lessons or chef-led dinner parties inside participants’ homes. Any money the homeowners donated to the organization for the evening’s expenses was, in turn, donated to a hunger-related charity of the homeowners’ choosing.

It was out of Set the Banquet Table that Miami Valley Meals was organized at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since its launch in March, the organization has produced more than 90,000 meals throughout five Miami Valley counties, totaling more than 76,000 pounds of food.

In mid-March, Chef Matt DeAngulo, former executive chef at now-closed Citilites, located inside the Schuster Performing Arts Center, asked Evans the best way to help. Those conversations quickly led to Evans, DeAngulo and former Citilites colleague, Amanda DeLotelle, activating a team of about 15 recently furloughed chefs and culinary professionals to form Miami Valley Meals and start efficiently bulk-preparing nutritious food.

Explore(November) Our Daytonian of the Week is a hunger-fighting hero on the pandemic’s front lines

The meals are primarily created at the Lindy’s Bakery at Daybreak, then picked up by other area nonprofits to be distributed to the community.

“The chefs of Miami Valley Meals are former workers at Citilites,” Berger said. “So, they weren’t in the nonprofit world. I came from a nonprofit world but not like this. So, he (Evans) definitely has inspired all of us and brought awareness to us of the food insecurity in Dayton.”

Many people in the Miami Valley would quickly dispute the claim, but Evans said he only has one skill that has brought him great philanthropic success and that is being “snoopy.” His curiosity surrounding others’ passions and their well-being has made Evans an unparalleled relationship builder.

“I just never wanted to see anybody not be able to have something to eat, it’s just that simple,” Evans said. “So I connected myself with a lot of people who influenced what I did. It’s all about relationships.”

Serious about helping others, but often interrupting business talk to share a laugh, Evans makes almost every attempt to redirect conversations away from crediting himself for successes, to putting the praise on everyone else around him.

“It really is more is more about the success that other people have had going back decades (that allowed for MVM’s success.)” Evans said. “I’m a baker, I can’t boil potatoes. If I produced your meal, you wouldn’t be real happy. … This vision that Matt and Amanda had, it’s unique. They know how to rescue food, to take something, and be so efficient that you can turn something that doesn’t have much shelf life left into something else.”

ExploreRelated: Vehicles line up in the rain for Thanksgiving meal giveaway

One of Evans’ most important contributions to the region was when he took out a $500,000 loan in 1999 to have a structure built for the House of Bread, founded in 1983 by Sister Dorothy Kammerer and Joe Bettman. Evans served as House of Bread executive director from 1999 to 2004.

“I’m a transplant, as you can tell from my accent,” Evans said. “So, I came here to go to UD, I bought this bakery, I was successful, my kids all grew up here in Dayton and it’s my home. When all those things happen in Dayton, then you have to give back to the community that enables you to be successful. So that’s what I would tell people. If you live here, you know, you have a job here, children are educated here, then you have an obligation to give back to the community so that it can remain prosperous. That’s common sense I think.”

Organizations seeking assistance in feeding the hungry can visit miamivalleymeals.com to make a request.

INSPIRE DAYTON

The Dayton region is known for coming together to help one another in difficult times. Throughout the past month, the Dayton Daily News has published the stories of people who have persevered and inspired others during this challenging year.