Our History

January 1939

Towards the end of The Great Depression, Mavel Sherman started Bread of Life in a building on the corner of Washington and Occidental Street in downtown Seattle. The first year was filled with challenges, including a week-long closure due to shortage of funds and problems with Mavel Sherman’s health.

October, 1939

After nine months of starting Bread of Life, and Mavel Sherman asked Jennie Conrad to take over as the Director of Bread of Life. Jennie Conrad agreed and accepted the position in October 1939. She served in that position for the next 35 years. Ms. Conrad began her social work with the Salvation Army and worked throughout the United States before she came to the Bread of Life. During her time at Bread of Life, she met and married Jack O’Hara, a new Christian who came to the BOLM looking for assistance. He was eventually ordained as a minister and served as Bread of Life’s co-Director for eighteen years.


Bread of Life building in the 1940's

Bread of Life building in the 1940's

Jennie and Rev. Jack O’Hara purchased a home in 1942 that was a subsidiary of the Bread of Life and a place for participants in the program to live during in their rehabilitation. A building committee was appointed in 1944. The committee stepped out in faith by making a payment of $1,000 for the building on the corner of 1st Ave and South Main, which remains the present home of the Bread of Life. Bread of Life drew financial support from three principal sources–rent from the hotel rooms in the building, offerings at Bread of Life’s services, and donations from sponsors.

1945 – 2009

While building and maintaining Bread of Life’s programs, the first recorded board meeting was March 15th, 1945 and began with three board members. Today we have six board members.

Present Day

Bread of Life continues to provide temporary facilities, a bed, food clothing, and a safe environment for those who are in need. Bread of Life reaches beyond the physical needs by offering an opportunity to make a life-changing decision to accept Jesus Christ. Bread of Life is interdenominational and is supported entirely by individuals, churches, businesses, and foundations that believe in giving hope to Seattle’s homeless. Bread of Life is an integral part of the historic Pioneer Square district in downtown Seattle and partners with many local organizations to bring improvements to the whole community.

A Look at the Tomorrow

The Bread of Life has a dedicated staff and Board of Directors who are committed to living according to the Gospel by being actively involved in the Pioneer Square community. The future goals of the Bread of Life are as follows:

  1. Grow the capacity in our residential LifeChange substance abuse recovery program
  2. Expand our shelter beyond daytime hours with the goal of creating a 24-hour program