Our Back Pages: Our Daily Bread opened its doors 35 years ago

May 27, 2016


By Erik Zygmont

ezygmont@CatholicReview.org

The June 5, 1981, edition of the Catholic Review revealed that the opening of what is now Catholic Charities’ Our Daily Bread Employment Center came after “eight months of planning and renovations, court battles and a series of ups and downs. … ”

Thirty-five years later, any hardships encountered may be correctly assessed as mere bumps in the road, as Our Daily Bread has since served more than 7.4 million meals over what it assumes will be 12,785 consecutive days of outreach come June 1.

Sister Josanna Abromaitis of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, first director of Our Daily Bread, told the Review she was “very tired but very happy” after the center’s opening on Franklin Street in Baltimore.

Immediately filling a need, Our Daily Bread was estimated to have served nearly 700 meals over its first five days. The center has always served family-style, with table service, and the first diners likely spoke about the news of the day.

Earlier that year, President Ronald Reagan and St. John Paul II (then pope) had survived assassination attempts. The Colts still played in Baltimore, on 33rd Street, and William Donald Schaefer was in the third of his four terms as mayor of the city.

Today, Our Daily Bread serves 667 on an average day, a number that rises to about 800 by the end of the month, when benefits from the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program are exhausted, and it served a total of 243,353 meals during fiscal year 2015.

A history of Our Daily Bread posted at catholiccharities-md.org notes that Sister Josanna, who died in 2005, also launched Christopher Place as a 32-bed emergency shelter for men that offered a then-unheard-of luxury – showers and laundry – and received as many as 150 men per day.

The shelter has since become Christopher Place Employment Academy. It and Our Daily Bread are now at the Our Daily Bread Employment Center, located at 725 Fallsway. More than 200 clients have been placed into jobs; 180 have found permanent or transitional housing; and 3,931 have received case management, intake or  emergency services. 

Read more Our Back Pages columns here.