St. Athanasius Orthodox Church may have started fresh with its move to a new building in July, but the church's bread ministry never broke stride, said ministry leader Linda Frangedakis.
The church distributes bread to those in need every Sunday from 12:30-1:15 p.m. on the porch of its 100 Lime Lane location, where it moved from South Main Street in July 2014.
Frangedakis picks up the leftover bread from Panera Bread at Brannon Crossing every Saturday night after the restaurant closes. Leftovers go to a different organization every night, she said.
"It's like a tax write off for them, but you know what? They're helping the community," Frangedakis said.
Fr. Justin Patterson said St. Athanasius has been partnering with Panera Bread for about eight years, but only began distributing the leftovers during that specific afternoon window about five years ago.
He also said he was extremely grateful to Panera Bread for cooperating with so many groups and churches, and for being so helpful over the years.
Once the bread is brought to St. Athanasius, it is placed in carriers on tables outside the church. Teams of two volunteers rotate each weekend putting the bread outside and handing it out to community members, Frangedakis said.
Patterson said there had been some concern about whether people regularly receiving bread at the old location would be able to reach the new building, which is about two and a half miles away.
“It’s a different end of town,” he said. “I know there were a couple folks who would walk in the old days, and some of those people might have a hard time getting to the new church.”
But Frangedakis said the four or five families who regularly visited Main Street continue to pick up bread at Lime Lane every week. She also said she has seen a few new faces.
Patterson said there have been seasons when up to 20 people visit every week, and other seasons when few take part in the ministry.
During busy seasons, the church has had to regulate how much bread is given to each family or individual, Frangedakis said. But lately, there has been plenty to go around.
"They just give me all the bags of whatever was left over, which tends to be a lot on Saturday," she said.
Frangedakis said families of the church are also welcome to the bread if they need it.
“Of course, some of our families are not well off and they take some bread home too, and that’s alright,” she said.
Pastries and bread are taken to Rose Terrace Lodge, an assisted living facility in Nicholasville, if they’re not picked up by the end of the ministry, Frangedakis said.
To date, no one coming to receive bread has become a member of St. Athanasius, Patterson said.
"We're very clear that that’s not the purpose of it, but of course we would not be disappointed by that," he said. “It's helped build relationships, though, with believers and non-believers who come by, which is always a good thing."
Frangedakis said all are encouraged to visit the church's new location and take advantage of the ministry it offers.
"It feels good when people say, 'Oh, I have some neighbors that could really use some bread too.' I say, 'Take it,'" she said. "If they need the bread, they're welcome. We're fine. Bring your own bag if you want."