By LORETTA FULTON
B.O.B.S celebrated a 22nd birthday Sunday much like anybody named “Bob” would do, with cake, cookies, punch, and wishes for “many more.”
Actually, it was the people who make B.O.B.S happen that did the celebrating. The Breakfast on Beech Street ministry opened May 16, 1996, and numerous milestones have been met since then. In 2017, B.O.B.S served 19,000 free breakfasts to anybody who walked through the door of the dining hall, located at First Christian Church. An additional 34,000 sandwiches were packed, along with fruit and a cookie, for guest to take out.
“That’s seven miles if they are all lined up at once,” said Terry Stremmel, board chair as of January 2018.
B.O.B.S was the brainchild of the late Jack Henderson, who saw a similar minister while visiting his brother in Edmond, Oklahoma. Henderson was a member of First Christian Church and suggested a breakfast ministry being there.
Currently, 140 volunteers meet in rotating shifts Monday-Friday. Volunteers, who represent six churches, arrive about 5 a.m. to ensure the breakfast if ready and lunches packed when guests begin arriving at 6:30. Participating churches are First Christian, First Central Presbyterian, First United Methodist, Episcopal Church of the Heavenly Rest, Highland Church of Christ, and Holy Family Catholic Church, which serves on fifth Tuesdays.
“Why do you do this?” a man asked Cynthia Hale one morning.
“When you do this to the least of these, you do to the Lord,” she replied.
Hale serves on Thursday as a member of the First Central Presbyterian team. The crew serves biscuits and gravy every Thursday. The breakfast changes every day, but teams serve the same meal each week. All team members are volunteers. One couple receives a stipend for doing the shopping for all the food.
Stremmel, the board chair and member of Highland Church of Christ, began as a volunteer in December 2003. He answered the call to a request for volunteers to fill in while college students were gone for Christmas break.
“I just stuck with it,” he said.
Stremmel has been on the board since 2007. In January, he replaced board chair Allen Daugherty, who started volunteering in 1999 and served as chair for 10 years. Jane Hurley, member of First Christian Church, was an original member of B.O.B.S, starting in 1996 and also served several years as board chair.
Keith Carroll, a member of Highland, volunteered at B.O.B.S when he was a student at Abilene Christian University. He moved away after graduation then returned to Abilene. One of the first things he did after he got back in town was to sign up again as a volunteer at B.O.B.S. It is rewarding to see people, some with children, come in for a hot breakfast and lunch bag.
“They count on us to do that,” he said.