It seemed only fitting that Mary Classon and George Thompson helped lay bricks yesterday for the foundation of Our Daily Bread's new location at Franklin and Cathedral streets.
After all, they are key elements of the foundation on which Our Daily Bread has expanded from a small group of parishioners handing out a few bologna sandwiches to a bustling center staffed with 3,000 volunteers who provide 700 meals each day to the poor and homeless.
TTC "We started with just four or five hungry men who would come to [the Basilica of the Assumption] for sandwiches, and before we knew it there were dozens of them lined up outside the door," said Mrs. Classon, 82, who regularly serves meals at Our Daily Bread, currently located at 200 W. Franklin Street.
"I love to cook," said Mr. Thompson, a smiling 76-year-old who has helped prepare lunches at Our Daily Bread since it opened nine years ago. "So, instead of giving the people raw or cold vegetables, I prepare them real nicely."
Mr. Thompson and Mrs. Classon were among 150 Our Daily Bread volunteers, fund-raisers and administrators gathered in chilling winds at about 4 p.m. to lay the foundation for Our Daily Bread's new soup kitchen, one block east of its current location.
The Rev. Tom Bonderenko said that the city is expected to give $350,000 for the new site but that more than $1 million must be raised from private sources.
Yesterday's ceremony served to launch the fund-raising campaign and to express gratitude to those volunteers who have baked dozens of casseroles and served hundreds of meals with a smile.
"Really, you are the foundation for Our Daily Bread," Father Bonderenko told the group. "Because without your support and commitment -- whether it's been since yesterday or for the last nine years -- we wouldn't have been able to serve the 1.5 million meals that we have provided to the homeless and hungry."
Mr. Thompson said although working with the poor can be depressing -- especially as the number of children served by Our Daily Bread increases faster than any other group -- he remains staunchly committed because he feels that by helping feed the hungry, he is also helping all the residents of Baltimore.
"There's already a lot of crime in Baltimore," he said. "And I feel that if a person is fed, he'll think twice about hurting someone. But a hungry man will do anything to get food."
Mrs. Classon said what keeps her going are the smiles and gestures of appreciation from clients served at Our Daily Bread.
"The people we serve really appreciate everything we do for them and every word we say to them," she said. "They always come over before they leave and say thanks for a delicious meal. And they really like it when they can go somewhere and have people treat them with respect.
"I just know there are people out there depending on me and I can't let them down."