When people hear that both Kelly and Ellen Simon work as site coordinators for Loaves & Fishes, it’s easy to think that Ellen followed in her mother’s footsteps.
“Ellen was the reason I came here,” said Kelly, site coordinator at St. John’s Lutheran Church and Brunswick United Methodist Church.
Ellen, site coordinator at Salvation Army North, knew she wanted to work in nonprofit while she was in college at Winona State University and got her first experience with Loaves & Fishes as an intern in 2017. She wanted to stay on, but there were no full-time positions available when she graduated. After a year away, she quickly scooped up the first opportunity that opened and has been with Loaves & Fishes ever since.
“This is a job where I do feel good at the end of the day,” said Ellen. “I feel like if I can help one person then it’s a good day.”
Kelly had spent much of her career in retail, but was interested in Loaves & Fishes after seeing Ellen’s experience. A full-time opportunity became available in April of 2019. She still remembers the first interview question she received.
“Do you cook?”
“I said, ‘well I have a family with four kids so I guess I did do some cooking back in the day,’” Kelly recalled with a laugh.
Soon after Kelly started, her daughter Emma also took an internship with Loaves & Fishes making it three Simons throughout the 2019 summer. Despite it being a family affair, Kelly and Ellen don’t get all that much bonding time at work, if any. The first time they had even been in the same kitchen in months was to be interviewed for this story.
“People always go ‘wow, the two of you work together!’ I go it’s not what you think because we hardly ever see each other,” Kelly explained.
Ellen does see it as a sense of pride that they both work for Loaves & Fishes and can share stories and experiences.
“This is a guest service job,” Ellen said. “You are working with other people and at the end of the day I go home knowing I helped at least one person. Food is expensive no matter how much money you make. I’m helping people with food and everybody needs food. That is very rewarding.”
Kelly loves interacting with the guests, but she does have one that sticks out and reminds her how important the work is.
“She is a grandmother who comes to St. John’s and thanks me every single night,” Kelly said. “She is taking care of her daughter’s baby, needs the help and is an awesome person. Sometimes we will sit there and talk and I end up sobbing. Those kinds of impacts really make you love your job.”
The mother-daughter duo said stories from their sites come up in conversation often, but one thing they don’t share with each other is recipes.
“When at home and not cooking for work my mom has her same five recipes that she likes to cook,” Ellen said as the two shared a laughed in agreement.
“We are totally opposite in how we cook and in the way we cook,” Kelly echoed. “We are totally different people.”
They might have different approaches, but they are not so different when it comes to the incredible impact they are making to provide healthy meals for those who need it most.