Our History

A homeless man knocked on the door to the private residence of our founders, Dr. Donald and Dr. Dorothy Femmer, which was attached to a church and Bible college. The man didn’t realize that he had knocked on the family’s residential door. Sent away from the property by a Deacon, the man fatefully decided to leave the property. Upon notification that the man was sent away, Drs. Femmer was desperate to find him. They found him hitchhiking on the nearby highway and brought him back to their home. The man received a tomato sandwich made from the family’s garden and gave a heartfelt conversation. When he left, Dorothy vowed that no one would ever leave her home hungry again.

Dorothy’s vision would soon become a reality. January 13, 1982, Loaves and Fishes for St. Louis, Inc. officially opened its doors. The goal was to provide temporary emergency food to the poor, aged, and unemployed while expressing the Christian message of compassion through sharing.

In 1997 it was only through God’s grace and the support of our community that our doors didn’t close after a horrific fire. The fire destroyed over half of our building, temporarily shutting down services to our community. Operating as an emergency homeless shelter and food pantry, the loss of this resource profoundly impacted those who couldn’t get into the city where most essential programs were located.

Dorothy Femmer was resilient. She united the local community to help rebuild. In 1998, amid a housing crisis, we re-opened our doors to much support and fan fair.

Today Loaves and Fishes is a thriving food pantry and emergency homeless shelter for families with minor children. Serving close to 15,000 people annually through our programs, which now include intensive case management, life skills classes, parenting classes, financial education, counseling, housing readiness, housing navigation, employment programs, food security, and other prevention services. Other programs include seasonal curriculums that address food insecurity, family unity, holiday expenses, and just being a kid.