Frying bacon spreads a tantalizing aroma through a room of hungry people in the fellowship hall at Lighthouse Ministries.
It's 10 a.m. Wednesday, smack dab in the middle of the week, with close to a dozen people still eating breakfast.
And breakfast is free, though freewill donations are accepted.
-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Volunteer Faye Gibbs, left, plates an order of hashbrowns Wednesday morning while making breakfast at the Lighthouse Ministries. Behind her, fellow volunteer Diane Gillott gets ready to fry some bacon.
-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Each breakfast at Lighthouse Ministries is cooked to order using a system as old as short-order cooking itself, handwritten order tickets on a string.
In fact, those freewill donations help keep the fledgling program alive.
"I live down river road," said Faye Gibbs, one of the organizers of the free breakfast program. "I didn't know how many homeless people live on the river. We've got a lot of homeless here in Fort Dodge."
Gibbs, along with Diane Gillott and Jan Johnson, decided they had to do something about those people living on the river. The restaurant where they worked had closed, and they were able to get all the food on hand.
Anyone who wants to help fund the breakfast may send money to the church, 300 J St., or call the church at 955-4245 or Gibbs at 571-4046.
"We brought everything that was in there to the church," Gibbs said. "And that's how we made our decision. We could use it to get us started."
That was in early June. And in the first month, the little group ran out of food just once. It's an iffy proposition, though, because there is no guarantee the donation jar will stay full.
Gibbs has made arrangements with several businesses in Fort Dodge to get day-old pastries, fruit juices and milk, she said. "And I've gone to businesses that I know. They gave us money to replenish our food. Our local merchants have really been a lot of help, but they just found out about us."
Breakfast is served between 7 and 11 a.m. Monday through Friday in the dining hall at Lighthouse Ministries church, 300 J St - that's the corner of Avenue C and J Street just below the hospital.
"We have one customer who comes every day," Gibbs said. "I go and pick him up about 8:30, and he stays here with us till we're done. It's his social time. He just loves us girls, and he wants to be around us. He's 80-something years old. He helped us get started, too, by giving us money for food."
Anyone who wants to help fund the breakfast, may send money to the church, 300 J St., or call the church at 955-4245 or Gibbs at 571-4046.
The Rev. John L. Elkin Sr., pastor at Lighthouse Ministries, said this breakfast is just a breakfast, but if anyone wants to talk about the gospel, he's happy to do that.
"The real center for the ministry has to do with our hearts," he said.
Luke 10:27 in the King James Bible says, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God ... and thy neighbor as thyself."
"This is an attempt on our part to be in keeping with that commandment," Elkin said. "Showing them love and meeting the real needs that they have."
While some homeless people do show up to eat, the breakfast also draws many people who live in the area, he said. "A lot of them are from homes in walking distance. They get to meet other neighbors and people they don't know."
For Wendy Leadley and her three children, the breakfast has become an important part of the day.
"It's very social," she said. "It's very awesome because there's nothing down here. We started going right away. Another cool thing about it, is yes, it's a church, but it's more like a restaurant. If you ask about the religion, the pastor will take you off and talk to you. Other than that, you don't even know he's a pastor. He wears cowboy boots and he loves eagles. We all know we need to be in the church, but sometimes it turns people away, and that's what I think is so cool about this breakfast."
Leadley said her children bring home all the hungry kids in the neighborhood, so she's taken to feeding them lunch and often takes home leftover rolls or other food from the breakfast site to help feed the children later. That's how she perpetuates the project.
Breakfast at the church isn't served buffet style. Orders are taken, and each prepared just as the person wants it.
"If you want your eggs over easy, you get your eggs over easy," Gibbs said. "We give them a hand up, not a handout."
Contact Sandy Mickelson at (515) 573-2141 or firstname.lastname@example.org