“We were ready and waiting for the first diners on opening day,” said Sue Swindell, who was a dining room volunteer for the brand-new venture of what is today called Radford Fairlawn Daily Bread.
It was 1992, and all the planning to serve those in need with regular meals opened to three diners who showed up, Sue remembers vividly. “But we were happy to get started.”
RFDB is celebrating 25 years in operation. The early program grew quickly through notices to welfare recipients, churches, organizations and word of mouth, sand Swindell remembers it reaching a lot more, even up to 100 a day, within a few weeks.
Betty Wright arrived on scene soon after, and Janell Dobbins joined the trio as a server in 1996. All three said they wanted to do something in the community, and felt they were led to the food kitchen. Betty was retired and had been caring for her mother, and Janell retired from years at Radford University. Sue had been working part-time, heard about RFDB, attended an informational meeting and “decided it was what I wanted to do.”
Daily Bread began as a venture of the local Radford Ministerial Association, and was initially housed in the Church of God on Russell Avenue. Part of the agreement with the church was to feed the pre-school children each day, before preparing and serving citizens coming for the noon meal.
They remember that there was no dishwasher due to breakdown near the beginning, so Sue admitted to being the washer. Since there was then no sterilizer, she would pile the dishes into her truck and drive them each day to be handled at Central United Methodist Church, until theirs also broke down. The initial cook was Lydia Warren in 1992. In 1994, Liz Mills took over, cooking until retirement in more recent days.
The program moved to its current location at 501 West Main, in the Lion’s Club building, in January of 1998. It is larger, and better equipped.
In planning for the move, Janell and Liz would leave the noon serving at the church, and head to the Main Street location to continue working – cleaning and getting things ready for the switchover.
All three women still serve today, working together each Thursday. Janell and her husband Don are also delivering food in the program’s associated Meals on Wheels project, begun later.
The programs today serve over 20,000 meals a year. There is no charge, and anyone is invited to come for lunch 11 p.m.-noon Monday through Friday (501 E Main St.). For more information, call RFDB director Donna Fern at 540-639-0290.
To celebrate the anniversary year, all past and present volunteers are invited to attend a picnic at 4 p.m. Friday, Aug. 18 at shelter one in Bisset Park.
— Bob Thomas