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The Bread Brigade

By Jenna Noel

In most of our lifetimes, there will come a moment or perhaps a chance encounter that will change how we lead our lives and what we do with our time. Ten years ago an encounter of this nature occurred between two members of  Immanuel Lutheran Church and what resulted is an organized act of charity that has not ceased to help those in need. 

It all started after a day of serving at a local soup kitchen. Irene Deblois, a longtime member of Immanuel Lutheran Church, was headed home when she ran into fellow church member Steve Hanson. “He asked me if I could do him a favor while he went on vacation,” Deblois said. “He explained that all I had to do was pick up some bread at the Panera Bread in Plainville and bring it to the soup kitchen. I said sure and really thought nothing of it.” 

Irene fulfilled her promise and went on with her life. However, she would soon receive some somber news. “I was in New Hampshire for a quilting seminar and one of my friends from church was there as well. She asked me if I had heard the news from our pastor. I said no and she went on to tell me that Steve Hanson had passed away,” Deblois explained. Saddened and shocked, Deblois’ thoughts turned to Hanson’s last request of her. What would happen to the bread deliveries? How would the soup kitchen continue to receive their much-needed donations? With nowhere else to turn, Irene Deblois went to Panera the following week and continued Steve Hanson’s charitable mission. Before she even realized it one week turned into two weeks and two weeks turned into several. Suddenly what was once Steve Hanson’s weekly routine had become Irene’s. “I just kept going every week to collect the bread and bring it to the soup kitchen. But soon I was getting so much bread that I began to wish I had other places to bring it.” 

With mountains of bread and other baked goods coming in from Panera, Irene set out to find more organizations in need. “There’s a men's group home not too far from me and one day I decided to introduce myself there and offer them some of the donations. They were very willing and appreciative so I started to deliver food to them as well.” With more than one organization receiving donations and the amount of donated food steadily increasing, Deblois knew she would eventually need more help with this endeavor. At the recommendation of one of Immanuel’s pastors, Irene reached out to the Attleboro Council of Churches for more ideas of where to donate. She also began to seek help from fellow church goers. Soon Irene had a small team of volunteers and a few more stops on her donations list. 

“Currently I have a team of nine people helping me with what we now call The Bread Brigade,” Deblois said. As for the future of The Bread Brigade, Deblois hopes to eventually work with other churches and continue the charity work that Steve Hanson started. Most of all, Irene and her team of volunteers  hope people understand just how meaningful and important this work is. “It’s not a difficult ministry but it’s very rewarding,” Deblois shared. “The people we bring food to are so appreciative and when we have the time to sit and speak with them during our deliveries you can tell how much it means to them. When they say thank you it really comes from their heart. I’m just thankful we’re able to continue what Steve Hanson started, a simple mission with a lot of meaning and spiritual reward.” 

If you would like to help  with The Bread Brigade please reach out to Immanuel Lutheran Church at (508) 222-2898.


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