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Ann Arbor breakfast program marks 42 years feeding those in need

Ann Arbor breakfast program marks 42 years feeding those in need
Ann Arbor breakfast program marks 42 years feeding those in need 03:28

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (CBS DETROIT) - The Breakfast at St. Andrew's in Ann Arbor has been serving the hungry every day since the 1980s – and it hasn't missed a single morning. 

Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, the program's former director pivoted to a takeout model so that those who rely on getting a hot meal each morning didn't go hungry. 

"The numbers have started slowly going up since we came back inside from COVID," said director Sue Nishi. "So, some days, I think we're serving about 100 people." 

Roughly 100 volunteers of all ages and backgrounds keep the program running every day of the week. 

Volunteers arrive as early as 6 a.m. every day to start making the breakfast, which includes hot items like eggs, oatmeal, grits, bacon or sausage and fresh fruit and vegetables. 

Volunteer Phil MacBride has been a "Wednesday opener" for the past decade. He was responsible for hard-boiling 90 eggs and making the oatmeal and grits.  

He said he has enjoyed getting to know the guests and seeing the community that's been created around the breakfast. 

"There's a lot of kindness and goodwill here, and I like that," said volunteer Jenny Alkema. "I always have a good feeling when I leave the breakfast." 

At 7:30 a.m., Nishi opened the doors for guests, many of whom were already lined up outside on a cold, dark February morning. 

Anyone is welcome to enjoy a fresh meal with no questions asked.  

Although some guests are experiencing homelessness, individuals from all backgrounds come to eat at the breakfast each morning. 

"We have a lot of people who have housing," said Nishi. "They have apartments, they have jobs, and they just are not making ends meet. And so, they come here and eat with us. And we have other people who, I think ... really come here for the friendship and the companionship."  

Volunteer Pat Nichols is a student at the University of Michigan. He became involved when he volunteered with a school group last fall and decided to continue on his own time. 

"It's a good start to the morning," said Nichols. "It's a big community around here. It's more like a community program ... I laugh with everybody. We talk a lot about sports, what's going on in life. Some of them are working, where they're going to. Things like that."  

Marc McRae was born and raised in Ann Arbor and grew up down the road from the church. 

He said the breakfast is an important resource in the community. 

"I'm in between apartments," he said. "It's a great program they run here at the church. ... It gives you an opportunity to get nourishment in you. To get your day going. Everybody needs to eat in the morning. It's the most important meal of the day is breakfast."  

For Cody Jolly, the breakfast provides a consistent, warm and safe space to relax. 

"We come in here to just to warm up and quiet down, quiet your soul," said Jolly. "Drink some just and just quiet your soul. It's just beautiful what God has done here."  

"We're all going through tough times. We're all struggling," said guest Eric Leonard. "Some of us are going through different things, you know? So, we need help, and this place is here to help people, and that's what's most important."  

When the one-hour window is up, volunteers clean up the space and prepare for the next day. 

"It's kind of an amazing thing that it's gone for so many years every single day," said Nishi. "Snowstorms, ice storms, power outages, whatever happens, there's always somebody here to open up the doors and put breakfast on the table."  

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