Plowshares was founded in April 1983 by a coalition of Faith Based individuals and folks involved in the Peace movement including Martin Bradley, Susan Crane, Debra Meek and Sister Jane Kelley.
Pickups from local grocery stores of food which was near expiration, provided the food for the meals in the early days. Each day of the week a different organization cooked and prepared lunches including, St. Mary of the Angels Catholic Church, Ukiah Methodist, Holy Trinity Episcopal, the Coalition for Peace on Earth, and Potter Valley Methodist. The first day Plowshares was open they served twenty people, by Thanksgiving they served 50.
There was some thought about whether a prayer before the meal was appropriate. Sister Jane proclaimed, “We will not hold people hostage by their bellies… not make people pray in order to eat.” With a master’s degree in Theology she supported her philosophy with a quote from Matthew 25:31-46: “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
Fundraising was a constant challenge, but the appeal touched people’s hearts, and ours is a generous and caring community. Martin Bradley was the first Director and there were many unsung heroes including Ann Near, Mary Rice, David Patton, Jay Holden, Buddy Eller, Dorothy and Al Anderson.
The Volunteer cooks came from as far away as Potter Valley. They learned to work creatively with what had been donated. They kept on doubling ingredients as the crowds grew.
The first facility was on Main St. in an old Social Services building. After losing that space in June of 1984, volunteers cooked in the Methodist Church and served in St. Mary’s parking lot. By the fall of 1984 the Luce Ave. location was rented. There was no kitchen but local cabinet makers and craftsmen volunteered their time and the kitchen was built. A walk-in refrigerator and freezer were purchased with donations. Plowshares was serving one hot meal a day. Soon other services including showers, haircuts, mail service and personal care items were available.
In 2001 as Plowshares begun to outgrow the Luce Ave location, plans were made for building the South State St. location that we are in today. Thanks to a bequest, the property was purchased for under $400,000. For five years, a capital campaign was led by Mary Buckley, Executive Director of Plowshares, which raised 3 million dollars. Approximately one-third came from private donations, one-third from foundations and government grants, and one-third from a Community Development Block Grant.
Bob Axt was the architect who worked with Mary and drew up the plans for a 6,000 square foot facility. The building committee also included retired engineer Gary Smith and Board Member Jack Daniels, all who made the building open on time and under budget in January of 2008.
With the availability of showers at Buddy Eller Center, Plowshares focused on its original Mission: feeding the hungry.
Meals on Wheels service was re-instated in 2002.
Today with 155 volunteers and six staff, Plowshares serves two hot nutritious meals each weekday for as many as 100 hungry people per meal. Approximately 126 Meals on Wheels are delivered to home bound Seniors every weekday.
A community of people with faith, hope and concern for their neighbors created Plowshares and continue to be the force that nourishes our growth.