BLOOMINGTON — Residents at Home Sweet Home Ministries line up every Saturday morning to see the Breakfast Club — a group of volunteers from State Farm serving homemade meals.
This Breakfast Club — sans Molly Ringwald — started as a Make a Difference Day event more than 20 years ago, and members haven’t missed a Saturday since.
“I think most people are looking for an opportunity to volunteer,” said Chris Kornfeld, this week’s crew leader. “When I saw (the email) asking for volunteers, it’s like — 6:30 on a Saturday morning, I’ve got nothing else going on, right?”
Though it’s not always easy waking up so early on their days off, program coordinator Tracey Vincent said she never has trouble signing up enough volunteers to cook and serve.
“Everybody enjoys giving back to the community and we feel a need here,” she said. “And the residents are always very appreciative of the hot breakfast.”
The shelter, which was founded on Thanksgiving Day nearly 101 years ago, houses up to 70 people who are temporarily homeless. Workers help them find suitable housing.
Home Sweet Home also offers meals to the community, not just residents, so anyone can come in for lunch or supper, CEO Mary Ann Pullin said.
“I really am gratified by the way that the whole community is behind Home Sweet Home,” she said.
The Breakfast Club quickly became a weekly tradition for a rotating group of about 75 State Farm employees, the Key Club at Normal Community West High School and a college fraternity.
Kornfeld said that when he volunteers with friends, it gives them an opportunity to talk and have a good time while also serving the community.
The volunteers try to make each holiday special for the residents as well.
“We usually worked on the Saturday before Christmas and we’d bring the whole family,” Kornfeld said. “Last year my kids were making pancakes that looked like Santa Claus and the Grinch. They really get into it, too.”
Every week the crew leader buys groceries — with some shopping around to get the large amount of food needed — and the rest of the group pitches in to cover the cost. The first set of volunteers starts cooking and the next one serves it up. Those eating fill up on eggs, bacon, pancakes, biscuits and gravy, some even taking to-go containers.
“We noticed today the crowd is kind of lighter than normal,” Vincent said. “For us, we buy too much food so we have extra food, but that’s probably really a good thing for the mission if there’s not as many people here.”
But as long as there is a need, the Breakfast Club will keep the sausage gravy train running.
“I don’t come here because it makes me feel good, but I come back because it does,” Kornfeld said.