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Meet Ricky Willis of Loaves and Fishes

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ricky Willis. 

Hi Ricky, we’re thrilled to have a chance to learn your story today. So, before we get into specifics, maybe you can briefly walk us through how you got to where you are today?
Loaves & Fishes is a nonprofit 501 (3) (c) organization that has been feeding the hungry of Clarksville and Montgomery County since 1983. This November we will celebrate our 38th anniversary. This Outreach began in 1983 when several ladies from the Trinity Episcopal Church started serving soup on Wednesdays, one day a week. But it didn’t take them long to realize that the need was much greater than just one day a week. So, these ladies reached out to some of the Churches around them who shared their passion for feeding the hungry and they found a partnership with the First Presbyterian Church, the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, and Madison Street United Methodist Church. Together, they organized what is known today as “Loaves and Fishes.” 

In January of 1999, we set up our ministry at the First Presbyterian Church’s Activities Center, where we served meals out of there until March 2021. And then, in March of 2021, a long-term dream was finally realized. Loaves & Fishes officially opened the doors at their very own 15,600 sq. ft. facility at 825 Crossland Avenue, in the heart of this city’s greatest need. 

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Establishing a nonprofit organization is always as struggle, because the needs and the goals of what you want to accomplish are great, while the resources of people and money to make those dreams a reality are always a challenge. We were blessed to have one of our founding churches, First Presbyterian Church, provide a place for our ministry to operate, but is was a very small space. The road that led to where we are today has been made possible by a lot of sacrifice, generosity, dedication, and hard work by people who were passionate about our cause to feed the hungry. 

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about Loaves and Fishes?
Our goal is to make sure that those who are hungry in the Clarksville and Montgomery County area have a meal they can count on every day. We serve a hot, nutritious meal to over a 100 people a day Monday thru Saturday from 10:30 AM to 12:30 PM. On Saturdays, in addition to a hot meal, we provide a Blessing Bag filled with non-perishable foods, so they can have a meal on Sundays. In addition to the meals we serve, we have 30 Community Partners, churches, and other nonprofit agencies in the Clarksville area that are also helping to feed people in need, that we distribute food to for their ministries. These agencies can pick up food at our facility Monday thru Saturdays. At least quarterly, we do large food distributions to other nonprofit agencies. We are so blessed by the generosity of donations of food that we are able to distribute thousands of pounds of food annually to these other organizations. 

We are unique when it comes to those who provide food in our community, in that we are not supported by any of the large food sources such as the Nashville Food Bank or the Harvest Food Network. Everything we receive comes from local donations from the generosity of people and businesses here in Clarksville and Montgomery County, and all donations stay in our local community to feed the hungry here in Clarksville and Montgomery County. 

Our primary focus is on making sure that people who are hungry are fed every day, but we offer much more. We also partner with numerous other organizations who can offer help and services to those we serve. Routinely, we have representatives from other agencies present at our facility who can offer help to the people we serve. We serve a portion of the population with many needs, and we can’t provide everything they need, so we’re always looking for ways to expand our partnerships with other agencies, because, our ministry is more than just about feeding people, it’s about ministering to the whole person. 

We are a Christian ministry, whose purpose is ultimately about sharing the transforming love of God with all those we serve. We treat each person as we believe Jesus Christ would treat them and we see how demonstrating God’s unconditional love is transforming lives every day. 

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