“Church ends at about 12, so we timed it so people would still have a chance to visit and fellowship in the hall,” Patterson said. “We initially thought it would be at 12, but we realized if we did that, people would be denied the chance to visit with their friends.”
Teams of volunteers rotate to cover the schedule so it’s not an every-week obligation for one or two members.
“We had to do something that was going to work and not burn people out; that’s one of the challenges of these kinds of things is burnout,” Patterson said. “I’m excited that we’ve been doing this for three years now; that’s pretty cool, because so many things you just get tired of doing after a while.”
The ministry sees different results each week, with varying amounts of food to give away and varied need. Some weeks very few people may come to get bread; some weeks 15 or more may come, said volunteer Trevor Logan.
“Sometimes within five minutes, 10 minutes, it’s all gone,” he said.
Those responsible are committed to providing the ministry each week without fail, Patterson said as he stood outside with volunteers on a windy New Year’s Day and saw no bread picked up.
“They are insistent that there always be a presence here,” he said. “We don’t take any (breaks), as evidenced by today.”
Any food left after 2 p.m. Sunday is usually donated to the Rose Terrace nursing home on 3rd Street in Nicholasville.
“Even if nothing gets taken (at the church), the nursing home always needs it,” volunteer Sarah Holiday said.
Occasionally Panera doesn’t have any leftover bread and the church has purchased bread, which Patterson said is a way the ministry could grow if the need dictated. The church is in the process of buying property farther outside the city, which could change the face of the ministry.
“The downside of that is we’re not in this area, which has a lot of need, so we’re going to miss that,” Patterson said. “We’re still figuring out how to negotiate all that — will we have a bread ministry up here every Sunday? Or will we try to do that out of our new church? Will it be convenient for people who won’t have a lot of money? We have a lot to figure out.”
While those who come to the doorstep of Saint Athanasius each Sunday get bread and baked goods from willing volunteers, Patterson said the partnership with the local restaurant is key to the ministry.
“Panera provides the bread — they provide the actual thing we use,” he said. “We just provide the labor and the space.”