The Lodi Food Pantry Serves the Needs of Those in Need

by Free Speech on May 18, 2010

Lodi, WI~

Lodi Valley News serving Lodi, WI & the Lake Wisconsin area with local information since Earth Day 2008.

For nearly 30 years this community has supported the Lodi Area Food Pantry.  That support has come in many different forms from every corner of our School District and every day we continue to be amazed at the loyalty and support of our citizens to what has truly become a “community project”.

Often thru these decades people have asked “how did this come about?”  “Where did the idea take shape”?  I think the germ was planted by an Assistant Principal that I worked for  in the old junior high school in the late 70’s.  Mrs. DeRose asked a young boy what he was going to be doing over Thanksgiving and he told her that he just hoped his family could have more to eat that day than hot dogs.  Both she and I were heartbroken for that little guy and knew that his Mom was struggling just with everyday needs, let alone the upcoming holidays.  We decided to seek staff help in collecting funds and throwing a chunk of change from our own pockets, we went shopping at the local grocery store.  We bought a big turkey and all the trimmings including fresh fruit and vegetables.  There was enough for other basics to get the little family through the school breaks and money left over for her to buy some Christmas presents later.  When we made that delivery I will never forget the look of absolute astonishment and the tears of gratitude on that Mother’s face.  We cautioned her to make sure she did not divulge to her son where it came from because we wanted her to take all the credit for the fine Thanksgiving and then Christmas that she would provide.

While we were glad to take the stress off one family, I couldn’t get it out of my mind that there were other families who also had to be struggling.    The economy was in the tank then too.  Job losses, a recession and a lot of stress for a lot of people.   I knew that Poynette had had a Food Pantry for several years and I was fortunate to have a cousin who was in charge of it.   My good friend and neighbor Carol Meyer and I decided to call Lois Buckley of the Poynette Pantry,  and gathering up members from each of the churches, we met and decided we would give this idea a try.  We really didn’t know how this would go over but from the very beginning at that first meeting we decided that what we gave would be in the name of our community, we would give as we would want to be given to, with dignity and respect and complete confidentiality.  That was our mission and that goal has never altered.  Each representative would take it back to their congregations and I met with the ministerial group to ensure our Pastors that they could trust us to serve their congregations.  I remember the Sunday morning when I gave my own small temple talk to my church.  I gave them our proposal and afterward at coffee hour, one elderly member said to me, “This is all well and good Judy, but who in the world are you going to do this for?  There are no needy families in Lodi”.  I remember telling her, “that would be fine with me if we don’t need to do this.  I most certainly am not going to have my feelings hurt”!  But here we are, just short of 30 years later and see no end of this service in sight.  The Presbyterian Church was the first congregation to take up a drive and Beth Clark Sokol got the ball rolling.  But where to go with it?  Lois had shared with our group that the Poynette Pantry had been broken into recently and not wanting the added stress of that, decided to put it in our basement for safekeeping.  The Pantry would remain there for the next 15 years until it found its home in what had been the “fish room” at the Lutheran Church.  In the early years Carol and I packed up the food, did the grocery shopping and delivered to all corners of the District.  The Lodi Elementary School had been collecting food at holiday time for sometime previously for pantries in the area but now could keep their drive in our own school area.  We wish now that we had kept a journal of our adventures, mostly in those early years.  I remember one family we brought food to.  We walked into the kitchen and the little girl of the house was standing on a chair stirring a pot that looked like it had gruel in it.  Or the little boy who opened the door for us and shouted out, “look mom, fresh milk”.   We lugged groceries thru mud and deep snow, got totally lost on country roads, and went out in rain, snow, sleet and incredible heat.   We were met with tears, joy, amazement and always relief.  When we are asked, “how can we ever repay you”?  We always answer, “when things get better for you, you can give back, that’s how we keep this going”.  One day a few years ago, our doorbell rang and a man was at the door with two huge grocery bags.  He said “you helped our family when things were really bad for us and I don’t know what we would have done had you not been there.  I’m working again and I want to help now too”.  I was rather embarrassed because I didn’t remember him, but that’s what we do, we don’t dwell on who needs us because that’s not important, what is important is that we are able to do so.

Our methods have changed over time.  Now, thanks to Clarence Miller and his church youth team, he and the kids took the Food Pantry as a project a few years ago.  With the help of other adults, they built a pantry building for us on the parking lot of the First Lutheran Church.  The old fish room is our sorting and overflow area and our families now pick out what they want and need, and a voucher awaits them at the Piggly Wiggly where they can purchase their own fresh food products.   We have branched out too.  We have an account at Kwik Trip where gas vouchers are made available, we have been able to assist families with rent, utilities, prescriptions, and incredible support as well as encouragement come from our Scouts, Women’s Clubs, community centers, all of the schools,  4-H, individuals, businesses and you would be hard put to find any organization untouched by a drive.   For many years Shelly Pare has asked for food pantry items in lieu of payment for concerts and Glenda Crook’s Ag class orders extra fruit for our families.   The Lodi Locker Market has packaged and contributed hamburger and deer meat,  Piggly Wiggly takes our current needs and offers them to shoppers to purchase, the Associated Bank has a year-around box for collections and we have expanded our services to collecting school supplies, networking with the Santa Project and now an endearing relatively new partnership with the Lodi Farmer’s Market.

For the last five years, each Saturday morning during the harvest season, Carol and I go out to the little red barn on the Northern Edge Parking lot and gather up the produce contributed by the various vendors.   We especially give this wonderful harvest of safe, healthy food to our seniors.  Many of whom once lived on farms and grew their own gardens.   One senior in particular comes to mind.  Where she once canned and froze vegetables and fruit from her garden, happily took out her canning jars that she had packed away but couldn’t bring herself to dispose of.   Even on warm fall days, she has her canner going and shares with her neighbors.  The vendors at our local market are so generous and our support of them is unconditional.  We are also enthusiastically supporting the Farmer’s Market drive this summer to raise money for their expenses.  Dottie Sutfin’s team of quilters designed and constructed a beautiful quilt to be raffled off later this summer.   We are planning a dinner that will consist of all the vendor’s products and where the lucky ticket will be drawn.  The tickets can be currently purchased at the Farmer’s Market and the quilt will be on display at various venues.  So stay tuned!

Both Carol and I both feel that this has never been “our” project.  It is the community’s project.  Whenever we are asked, “who can we possibly thank”? we simply tell them, “it’s from all who live among us”.  We are simply the conduits of your enormous generosity, and we have both felt all along that we have received much more than we have given because without the incredible support, even in these very difficult times, we wouldn’t be.  Its as simple as that.  By Judy Brownrigg

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Cheryl McGraw May 26, 2010 at 12:53 PM

Thank you to you ladies for providing such a wonderful service to our community! Just another reason why I’m so thankful to call Lodi home.

{ 2 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: