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'Bread angel' helps to feed the Sault's most vulnerable

Kathy Humphries believes if everyone did just little, a whole lot could be accomplished in addressing food insecurity in the city
Eighty-year-old Kathy Humphries holds one of the 'buckets' she uses to bake loaves of bread every week for Sault Ste. Marie's most vulnerable. SOYA estimates Humphries has baked about 1,700 loaves in the past two-and-a-half years.

How much of a difference can just one person make when helping to support Sault Ste. Marie’s most vulnerable populations? Eighty-year-old great grandmother Kathy Humphries believes if everybody did just a little bit, a whole lot can be accomplished.

A few years ago, while visiting one of her two daughters in southern Ontario, Humphries saw first-hand how much need there was and was inspired to do the same back home in Sault Ste. Marie.

“She was making this bucket bread,” said Humphries of her daughter’s effort to hep the vulnerable population in Whitby. “Seeing my daughter do that and seeing how appreciative people were — I just felt that there was a need here, too.

The recipe is simple, flour, yeast, salt and water. It is mixed and placed in a plastic bucket to rise before baking.

“She was bringing it somewhere you can bring things and they distribute them,” said Humphries. “I went with her and I said that bread looks easy to make.”

She returned home and began baking the bucket bread for neighbours and family back in the Sault. Humphries said the artisanal bread is similar to soft bread she has eaten in the south of Italy.

About two-and-a-half years ago, Humphries saw a Facebook post by SOYA founder Connie Raynor-Elliott seeking help to address food insecurity in the city. She called with an offer to help out.

“I said I am not too good at doing too many things but I learned how to make this bread, could I donate some?” said Humphries, recalling the conversation.

Little did they know at the time, but that offer led to Humphries baking fresh bread for SOYA almost every week for over two years straight. She figures at least 10 50-pound bags of flour has been used to help fill bellies of the people who line up outside the organization’s Gore Street Depot.

Widowed for the past 12 years and living independently with the support of friends and family, Humphries said the baking has given her life a purpose.

“I know on Thursday I have to get my stuff ready and Friday I do my baking and [Connie] is coming Friday night to pick it up and then somebody has it to eat on Saturday,” she said. “Being a widow, it’s just me and these four walls after suppertime. It’s just a matter of seeing that you’re doing something and helping.”

Humphries started making eight loaves a week for SOYA, but currently averages more than 20 loaves every Friday.

Raynor-Elliott estimates Humphries has baked at least 1,700 loaves over the past two-and-a-half years to help feed the city’s most vulnerable.

“We call her Kathy the bread maker, but she’s an angel to this community, she does so much,” said Raynor-Elliott.

Humphries is a member of the Royal Purple service club and advocated for SOYA to be the recipient of this month’s 50-50 raffle. With less than 10 hours until it closes, the jackpot sits at over $3,800, with half of that amount going directly to SOYA.

Humphries said she hopes the jackpot will top $4,000 by the end of the day.  

“It will help SOYA and it will help the member of the community that wins that,” she said.

Made with a mixture of white and whole wheat flour, the buckets bread is a hearty and nutritious addition to the soups, chili and fresh fruit SOYA offers every Saturday. Raynor-Elliott said everyone looks forward to it when they come to the depot on Saturday.

“You can tell it’s made with love,” said Raynor-Elliott. “I do some baking and you know how every once in a while you have a bad batch? She has never given us a bad batch.”

Humphries said some people spend more time talking about the problems downtown without offering solutions.

“I feel like if everybody did a little bit, a whole hell of a lot could get done, because you get a lot more done doing a little bit than just complaining about it,” she said. “Some people say there is a problem here and I say are you kidding me? This is the best place to live.”

Humphries says she has no plans on slowing down.

“As long as they need it and I have my health, I will do it," she said.

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Kenneth Armstrong

About the Author: Kenneth Armstrong

Kenneth Armstrong is a news reporter and photojournalist who regularly covers municipal government, business and politics and photographs events, sports and features.
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