However, when COVID-19 closed the store for much of 2020, Peggy found herself with time on her hands as she sat at home in Leland. At the same time, Michelle and Bill White were just about to launch 5Loaves2Fish, a community outreach program through the Leland Community United Methodist Church.
“I got excited to help Michelle get going,” says Peggy. “So, we just started cooking.”
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“A silver lining to COVID is that I have never felt so happy working and giving back,” Peggy says. “Besides, I can’t play solitaire 24/7. I have tendonitis in my hands from it!” she quips.
5Loaves2Fish is not your average church kitchen: They make everything from scratch, even the pasta. Peggy grew up in a family of eight children, so she says she is used to making big meals for lots of people. On the flip side, Michelle had experience in catering and is “one of one” children, Peggy says. It was a good match.
“She’s been my friend since I was 20 years old,” Peggy says. “She’s the type of friend you can pick up with at any time and laugh!”
“One time, Michelle had 65 chicken breasts, and we fed 72 people! What are the odds? It worked out—it always does!” Peggy says.
It often works out with the help of the community, as well. “We needed a new fridge and commercial freezer, and the next thing we know, Island Time Catering donated one to us,” recalls Peggy. “Another time, we wanted a pasta machine and I reached out to (the now closed) Leelanau Country Inn, and they donated their commercial pasta machine.” With the new machine, they can make fettuccini for 50 in about 30 minutes.
The meals are varied and often feature local foods. One recent meal was meatloaf, asparagus, three different pasta choices (buttered, kale pesto and beet pesto—the beets and kale from Second Spring Farm in Cedar) and fresh strawberries from Bardenhagen Berries in Lake Leelanau.
And the latest joy for those at 5Loaves2Fish? A 24-foot, decked-out food trailer named “Vinny,” after the donors, Vince Tomczak and Kristy Lorraine. It includes a six-burner gas range, flat-top grill and refrigeration. The trailer allows 5Loaves2Fish to take their show on the road. Instead of hauling food in totes and car trunks, they can now set up and serve food fresh from the trailer, offering increased accessibility to those in need.
Beyond food, 5Loaves2Fish has a pulse on the needs of the homeless community. “If someone needs a sleeping bag, we go get it, or a tent, we get it,” Peggy says. “Or we gather clothes. Last month, I set up a pharmacist to give COVID shots. We just kind of find out what they need.”
Retirement is nothing like Peggy expected: It’s better. “Everything is done with love,” she says. “It’s just such an incredible opportunity to be a part of—you can’t help but feel good doing it. We play oldies and laugh. It’s been an amazing experience!”
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