A retired school administrator from Brockport is giving the world a bit of something it needs right now. The recipe is a simple one.
All it takes is four simple ingredients to make Chet Fery smile.
"Making bread is my happy place," said Fery, who lives in Brockport with his wife of 42 years, Marina. "I love doing this."
Fery spoke as he looked over more than two dozen loaves of rye bread, which he baked after waking up at 4 a.m. Tuesday. It’s his daily ritual, and practice makes perfect.
Fery has had lots and lots of practice.
"In this particular space, I’ve probably made close to 100,000 loaves," he said. "Believe it or not!"
This is what Chet’s kitchen looks like every day. Into the oven goes, on average, 28 loaves of bread each day. For 19 years, almost all of them he gives away for free.
"Some people call it a mission," said Fery. "I don’t like to call it that. Some people think it's spiritual. I don’t know. But I think every act of kindness is kind of spiritual."
Aside from flour, water, salt and yeast, kindness is his fifth ingredient. It is also the most important one for the retired school administrator and motivational speaker, whose goal is to spread as much kindness as possible.
"The loaf of bread is the symbol," he said. "But it’s the feeling of kindness that really captivates people, so that's really why I do it."
Fery says he typically has 130 speaking engagements a year, ranging from children’s groups to businesses to community organizations. When the coronavirus pandemic struck, those speaking engagements stopped. So since March, the man known as "The Bread Man" of Brockport has found another way to spread happiness.
Each day, he heads outside him home and stuffs a container full of fresh loaves into a red wagon, and then wheels it out to the end of the driveway. Bread is free for the taking.
"We need the spirit feeling of community," said Fery. "And bread seems to do it."
As many as 3,500 free loaves since the start of the pandemic. That's 3,500 acts of kindness. Fery has not missed a day yet, at a time when it’s needed most.
As long as the need remains, he says he’ll keep at it. Kindness is contagious.