FEATURE STORIES

Higher Ground:
Life at Our Daily Bread

 

by Jeff Ward
October 2010

 

My mother grew up on a farm in a small town near Sidney, Ohio. My father spent his days as a young child with his mother, while his father was driving a semi truck across the country. They never had a life that was full of money and items that I call “luxuries.” My parents had to work hard to get where they are today. They wanted to live a different life and wanted their kids to do the same.

I grew up in a small town about two hours north of Cincinnati in the city of Sidney, in a middle-class home. This is where I had a normal life. Grandpa told me stories about walking to school in the snow uphill, both ways. There were and still are a lot of fields of corn, beans, and wheat in that region. Sidney, at least the part of it that I saw, is very limited in terms of demographics. Now, attending college here in Cincinnati, Ohio, I observe great change when it comes to diversity. The difference is even greater when I am working at Our Daily Bread, in inner city Cincinnati. I have been shell-shocked, having been thrown into the melting pot of the tri-state area.

Both of my parents worked very hard for what they have earned. My mother has been an insurance agency’s secretary for as long as I can remember and my father held a few different jobs throughout my younger years. When my mother’s hours were cut at work she had to pick up a second job, and when a job opportunity opened up in my hometown my father jumped all over it. He has received a promotion and is now on salary, working up to 80 hours a week. My parents did this so that my sister and I could live a life that they never had.

My parents’ hard work allowed me to go to college. They gave me the chance to make something of my life and be the person I always wanted to be. The questions then dawned on me: what about those individuals that do not have the chance to make something of their lives, or those that have had the chance at achieving something and did nothing with it? Or, what about those people that have possessed that “chance” and the chance has been snatched from them? What about people in that arena?

I am currently working at Our Daily Bread (ODB), in Over-the-Rhine. ODB’s mission is to respond to the needs of impoverished individuals in Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine and West End neighborhoods. We serve a range of residents: the unemployed and the working poor, the old and the young, the homeless, or formerly incarcerated people. Frankly, anyone that comes to ODB is served. I see a lot of different people at ODB that have never had the chance of achieving real success, or have had a chance to achieve and nothing with it. Or, there are those individuals that have had that chance, and the chance was taken away from them.

Everyday on my way to ODB I see the same two men walking in the opposite directions that I am driving. One is always wearing a red and black plastic jacket and shorts, and the other person wears a white t-shirt and blue jeans. I see a little woman, as I pull into Findlay Market parking lot, wearing a bandana and raggedy clothes, enjoying herself on a swing in the park next to the parking lot.

I wanted to work at ODB because I knew that I was given a chance to make something of my life, and I wanted to help give those people with whom I often come into contact the same kind of chance or encouragement. I can remember my first week at ODB, when I was asked by a man outside of our building if I wanted to buy crack cocaine. A woman at the intersection of Findlay and Elm Streets asked “if I wanted a friend to take home.”

Now that I have worked at ODB for several months, I have seen a lot of things and spoken with people that I have never seen or talked to before. I have talked to people who have sold drugs, committed crimes, and experienced incarceration. I can remember a man punching and bashing his head into a wall just because some random guy asked him to. I have seen drug deals in the middle of the street, a man picking up a prostitute, and someone rolling a cigarette in the bathroom on the toilet seat, someone taking a shower in a sink, and a man wearing a McDonald’s cup as a shoe. Some of these people were never given a chance the same way I was.

Some of these people are at an all-time low and have no other place to go, so they come to Our Daily Bread. At ODB, they are treated just like everyone else: with respect. Our guests at ODB cover a wide range people and needs: people that are homeless and have nothing but the clothes on their backs and the shoes on their feet, if they have shoes. We assist low income people trying to get back on their feet. ODB gives them a chance to do that.

Though Our Daily Bread’s main goal is to eradicate hunger, the organization does have the means to provide for other needs of our guests. These needs, such as housing and utility assistance, clothing, and transportation assistance are filled through our social work department. We have social workers that help them in any way they can. ODB has created connections throughout the city of Cincinnati to help our guests. We give them a warm meal every day and a place just to hang out. We have a computer lab where our guests can look and apply for jobs, set up and check their email accounts, or just to get online and do something that will appropriately distract them from their everyday lives.

My parents once gave me the opportunity to succeed in life, and at Our Daily Bread I am fortunate to be working, along with an excellent staff, to help provide a similar kind of opportunity for our guests.

 

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Jeff Ward of Our Daily Bread

Jeff Ward

 

Watch video of Jeff Ward speaking about Our Daily Bread.