Seven Loaves Services is a Middleburg based non-profit organization founded in 1994. It was the vision of Reverend Martin Spillman, the pastor of the United Methodist Church to provide a community-wide approach to address hunger and food insecurity. Reverend Spillman was joined in his efforts by five other churches; Long Branch Baptist, Middleburg Baptist, St. Stephen Catholic, Emmanuel Episcopal and the Church of Our Redeemer.
They started with a small closet in the church and since then the organization has grown into one of the larger food pantry operations in Northern Virginia. Seven Loaves still operates out of the lower level of the United Methodist Church and has recently completed a multi-year renovation of the space. The biggest project was the modernization of the food storage area. The old “root cellar” space had a gravel and dirt floor which was excavated and a new concrete floor was installed as well as better lighting and new storage shelving. “We finally replaced the old hobbit door to the storage area”, Seven Loaves Board member Kevin Hazard notes, “It was sort of an initiation for new volunteers to bump your head on the low door frame!”
The construction of the new storage space was followed by additional interior improvements to the patron waiting areas. The spaces are now much more attractive and efficient for volunteers and patrons alike. This fall the last phase of the improvements program was completed and included a new recycling and waste storage area, an outdoor seating area for the patrons and new landscaping at the pantry entrance.
Seven Loaves is committed to “green” operations, “We recycle all of our cardboard waste and any non-distributed perishable food is provided as forage to a local farmer. We also just completed a conversion to energy efficient LED lighting” said Jim McLaughlin, Seven Loaves Vice President, and Operations Director.
The food pantry is open to patrons three days a week and patrons can visit the pantry once a week. On a typical day, about thirty families will visit the pantry and over the year they will serve over 500 separate households. “Seven Loaves is like a small grocery operation”, notes Seven Loaves Treasurer Browning Herbert, “we distribute over 300,000 pounds of food annually and source our supplies from grocery store donations, purchases from the regional Blue Ridge Food Bank warehouse and the many food drives by the local community and youth groups.
We are especially grateful to the students at the Hill School, Foxcroft, Middleburg Charter and the Dulles South Chapter of the Loudoun Young Men’s Service League who run food drives and volunteer at the pantry”. “The core of our organization is our wonderful, diverse, hardworking and caring group of volunteers.
In a given week we will have thirty to forty volunteers picking up, sorting, stocking and distributing food. We could not do it without them!” notes Carleigh Underwood, Seven Loaves Pantry Manager. Carleigh recently has stepped into the Pantry Manager position after the retirement of Deborah Gallagher who provided several years of exemplary service to the organization. Prior to becoming the Pantry Manager, Carleigh was the Seven Loaves IT Director and completely revamped and enhanced the organization’s website (www.sevenloavesmiddleburg.org) and it’s Facebook Site.
Seven Loaves is also well supported by local businesses and special events in our area. Teresa Stine, Seven Loaves Secretary said “We started a piggy bank program with local shops several years ago and it has been very successful and well received by both visitors and our community. We also receive contributions from the merchants, Wiley Wagg is a great example as they collect dog and cat food for us to share with our patron’s pets.” Special events are also making Seven Loaves a charitable beneficiary and some recent notables are the Upperville Colt and Horse Show, The Bluemont Concert Series, the Middleburg Community Center Concerts and the Winchester Harley Davidson Club.
Jeff Baldwin, long-time Seven Loaves Board Member said: “We are so grateful to the many groups that come to us and ask what we can do for Seven Loaves.” Just a few weeks ago, an inaugural competitive regional bike race was held at the Salamander Resort and Spa. Reggie Cooper, the Resort General Manager, and a Seven Loaves Board Member worked with the race organizers to make Seven Loaves the sponsored charity for the event. “Special events, websites and Facebook pages were likely never anticipated by the founders of Seven Loaves” notes Stephen Plescow, President of Seven Loaves, “but it is part of the evolution and continued success of the organization”
Stephen joined the Seven Loaves team as a volunteer in 2008 and has assisted with many of the recent changes in the organization. “When I first volunteered with Seven Loaves in 2008 I was not aware of the level of food insecurity in our community, especially in Northern Virginia, one of the wealthiest areas of the nation. In Virginia, about 12% of our population, almost 1 million people, face this challenge every day.” Seven Loaves is unique among area food banks in that it does not place a geographic restriction on where patrons come from. A cornerstone of the Seven Loaves philosophy is a quote from Matthew 15:32, “I do not want to send them away hungry…” Stephen notes, “We serve all that come to us asking for help, I truly admire the courage it takes to ask for assistance. I am also so very proud of our volunteers who make the patrons feel welcome, safe and respected.” Seven Loaves has established several programs with Windy Hill and Levis Hill house to address the need of local residents and as Stephen states “to make sure we take care of those in our backyard.” Stephen concludes that “I am humbled and privileged to be part of Seven Loaves. It is a cherished local organization and it is truly a reflection of the generous and giving nature of the residents of Middleburg and the surrounding area”.
Visit the Seven Loaves website and Facebook page to learn more about the organization and how you can help.