For nearly decade, Lou Farrell of Hatfield has been volunteering to help the houseless at a local church.
“Sitting with folks, breaking bread, fellowshipping,” says Farrell, “I know a lot of people who live outside- and a lot of them are good folks.”
Farrell, who’s worked as both a chef and a teacher before he retired, says he’s a people lover and likes to help out where he can. So when the pandemic hit and many of the pantries and soup kitchens where his houseless friends frequented shut down, he devised a plan.
“People didn’t know how to keep their staff safe, how to distribute food,” he says, “so we had to come up with a different model.”
His idea was a concept he calls, “Bread Drop”.
“What we do is pretty simple,” he says, “we collect peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, snack bags and fruit bags, and we deliver them to hungry people.”
The sandwiches are essentially store brand bread, peanut butter and jelly. They must be whole and uncut and placed in a Ziploc bag. To keep volunteers safe, Farrell asks that they prepare the sandwiches in their individual kitchens within their “COVID bubble.” Farrell then picks up the finished items from various “drop off” locations and transports the wares to churches, soup kitchens and organizations across the region that then distribute the sandwiches and snack backs to those in need.
“I’m the logistics guy,” he says, “I’m the guy in the middle.”
Bread Drop’s effort began in April of 2020 with 200 sandwiches that Farrell dropped off to Project Home in Philadelphia.
“Within a month we’re up to five hundred [sandwiches],” he says, “we were delivering five days a week.”
When the need grew, so did the army of volunteer sandwich makers. He says some volunteers make 100 sandwiches a week, but there are others who make 10-20 a week without fail. Farrell says folks are dedicated even making sure that they get fill ins to produce their sandwiches when they go on vacation.
“I’m constantly astounded by the grace and the faithfulness of the people that are doing this with us,” says Farrell.
“He’ll tell you— he’s never made one sandwich,” says Margaret Weber, Farrell’s daughter, “but I’m proud of him.”
Weber lives in Maryland but has followed her father’s efforts. She nominated him for the Good Souls Project.
“They just delivered over 200,000 [sandwiches],” she boasts, “it’s all from other people that he’s helped do good.”
Weber says her dad has trained scores of people to become Bread Drop sandwich factories, giving them the opportunity to safely help those in need. These days, Farrell drives about 300 miles a week doing deliveries.
“He spends 40 hours a week doing this,” says Weber, “and he doesn’t get paid- he just spends all his time helping other people.
“When Lou called and offered to drop off sandwiches, our first question to ourselves was, ‘will you continue?’— and, yes indeed he has,” says Rev Zuline Wilkinson, who runs Chester Eastside Inc. in the City of Chester.
The organization provides food, clothing, job training, youth services and more. But Wilkinson says the need for food grew during the pandemic as families from all over the region sought out Chester Eastside’s help. She says Bread Drop, thanks to Farrell, helped to fill the gap, dropping off 200-300 sandwiches every week.
“We are distributing them to our neighbors and to our children,” says Wilkinson, “because they weren’t getting the school lunches, they weren’t getting the breakfast every day and so we’ve been able to fill some of that need.”
The sandwiches work for kids lunches, as well as for the houseless. When it got hot outside, they added donated waters as well. And peanut butter, while very simple, makes sense.
“It has a good storage life, it’s something that can freeze and that can last when you drive around in a car,” says Weber, “it’s calorie rich and a sandwich loaded with peanut butter can keep you moving through the day.”
Weber says Bread Drop sandwiches are special— they are slathered with peanut butter and have extra jelly.
“In some parts of Philadelphia, a big fat [peanut butter and jelly] sandwich is called a Lou sandwich now,” she chuckles.
Weber applauds her dad for finding a way, his way, to assist those in need by helping others do the same.
“My dad is definitely a good soul,” she says, “he looked at a really scary time and found a way to help. And that’s just a really amazing impulse.”
Farrell, who’s humble, says he is proud of what he and his many helpers have been able to accomplish.
“We’re taking our bite out of the problem and it does feel good,” he says.
To donate to Bread Drop, log on here.