Serving Savory Meals to the Homeless

serving1For our eighth outing of 2017, we continued to combat hunger by working with Savory Sunday for a new opportunity for our group.

Savory Sunday is a Madison non-profit organization in operation since 2005. They serve up fresh hot meals with the intent of providing the most satisfying free feast in town. As ‘Savory’ has grown, so has their connection with the community. In addition to addressing the pervasive issue of homelessness, Savory Sunday continues to build friendships with those they serve.

After volunteers help cook the meals, Savory Sunday continues elsewhere as volunteers serve up the prepared dishes to the hungry. A community atmosphere is facilitated by volunteers and food recipients alike.

For this outing, our group served up the food at James Madison Park on a Sunday and had a wonderful time. We served, chatted and helped proved a meal, which was the only one some people would get that day.

If you’re interested in cooking or serving with Savory Sunday, click here to learn more and sign up.

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Making Lunch for Local Kids via MUNCH

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For our seventh outing of 2017, we continued to combat hunger by working with The River Food Pantry’s mobile lunch program, Madison Unites to Nourish Children at Home (MUNCH).

We’ve volunteered at the River in the past in their food pantry, but not in this capacity. The MUNCH program provides mobile lunch services directly to children and teens within their local neighborhoods, where it is needed most, every day of the week. MUNCH bridges the gap that exists when school lunch is not available on weekends and over school breaks.

For this outing, we made a variety sandwiches at the pantry for north side children eligible for a free school lunch. We also helped sort and prepare drinks and snacks. It was a great experience and if you are interested in volunteering, click here (August is a busy month). In addition to lunch production, you can sign up to deliver the food in the community!

 

 

Hosting at St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry to Combat Hunger

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For the sixth volunteer outing of 2017,  we volunteered to help people get food at the St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry. It was a special outing too as we were also participating in the 2nd Annual DE Day of Service! Given our focus this year, it made sense for this special day to continue and build on our work in the area of combating hunger.

This outing is a DE favorite helping out at the large and busy St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry, which operates like a compact grocery store to serve between 60 and 160 families per day five days a week. Their customer-choice model of operation honors the dignity of clients and all involved in the distribution of free food to people who need it. This model also helps minimize waste and accommodates ethnic preferences by allowing clients to use “points” to shop for food their families prefer and will eat. Serving all Dane County ZIP Codes, their pantry annually gives away food valued at nearly $1.5 million to local households struggling with poverty. In a given year, they help local households with nutrition assistance over 63,000 times, including 27,000+ instances in which they help the children of the families they assist.

For this activity, we hosted clients around the pantry, some of which had been waiting hours to get food until all were helped. We also donated some items as well. As usual, it was an amazing experience and we got a nice tour of the facility afterwards.

Many credit union people often come back on their own to volunteer, which I highly recommend!

Special thanks to Courtney Cantwell and Kathy Varese who couldn’t make the event, but donated items!

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Helping People Get Healthy Food at Goodman Community Center

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For the fifth volunteer outing of 2017, we continued our work in the area of combating hunger by helping people get food at Goodman Community Center’s Fritz Food Pantry.

The Goodman Community Center is here for our whole community. Goodman currently houses a preschool, 4-year-old kindergarten, afterschool programs for all ages (including countywide Girls Inc.), an alternative high school, an older adult program, food pantry and a fitness center. They also rent rooms out to individuals, private corporations and community groups on a daily basis.

Goodman’s Fritz Food Pantry provides groceries for up to 125 families every week and half of the food distributed feeds hungry children. They are committed to not only alleviating hunger, but also to providing people with healthy foods — fresh, local and organic — as much as they can. And, they also try to meet special dietary needs for low-sugar, low-salt and gluten-free foods.

For this activity, we helped set-up and stock the pantry before it opens, then worked with pantry clients as they shop for their weekly groceries. It was a great experience and was interesting to volunteer here for the first time!

We also got a tour afterwards of the Goodman Community Center and I was blown away by all they offer! Click here to learn more about their many volunteer opportunities.

Helping Hungry Families at the River Food Pantry

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For the fourth volunteer outing of 2017, we continued our work in the area of combating hunger by helping people get food at the River Food Pantry.

The River Food Pantry is Dane County’s busiest food pantry, offering free groceries, meals, and clothing to anyone who comes for help. More than just meals, The River provides a warm and welcoming family atmosphere where everyone is treated with respect, encouraged to find the support they need, and given the opportunity to share what they can with others.

The River feeds more than 600 Dane County families per week, going through 40 thousand pounds of food every seven days, or about 2 million pounds of food each year. In 2016, The River received 31,400 family visits. Approximately 39% of those served by The River are children and 20% are seniors. The River provided those guests with hot meals, groceries, clothing, and household items.

This is our group’s third time at The River and again we had a great time! In addition to helping clients, we get to have a tasty meal and talk to other local volunteers. We also had some little helpers with us this time too, which is an awesome way to get kids involved in the community at an early age.

Want to get involved at The River? It’s easy and just a few hours can make a difference. Click here for more information.

 

Getting Food Ready for Distribution at Second Harvest Food Bank

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For the third volunteer outing of 2017, we continued our work in the area of combating hunger by getting food ready for distribution to Second Harvest’s partner agencies (food pantries, shelters, meal sites, etc).

Since 1986, Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin works to help end hunger in 16 southwestern Wisconsin counties through food distribution to its partner agencies, promotion of outside food assistance programs like FoodShare, and raising awareness of hunger. As southwestern Wisconsin’s largest hunger-relief charity it meets nearly one million requests for help each year. From July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015 Second Harvest, together with its partner agencies and programs, provided 12.4 million meals.

On average, 1 volunteer working for 1 hour at Second Harvest helps provide the equivalent of 65 meals. Which would mean our group helped provide over 1,040 meals, which is pretty amazing.We worked to get cheese ready for distribution, breaking up big blocks up of it into 2 lb bags.

This is probably my 6th or 7th time volunteering here and every time we are working with different foods! We had a great time and I definitely recommend checking out Second Harvest for solo or group volunteer outings.

Making Dinner for Families at Gilda’s Club Cancer Support Groups

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For the second volunteer outing of 2017, we continued our work in the area of combating hunger (and improving health) by making dinner at Gilda’s Club.

Gilda’s Club is a gathering place for everyone touched by cancer—of any kind and at any stage at no cost. Gilda’s Club offers support groups that focus on different types of cancer, as well as on special needs, e.g., spouses of people with cancer, teenagers, etc. It also offers informational lectures, workshops on crafts, exercise, nutrition, etc. and social, community-building activities such as potluck dinners and comedy nights.

For this activity, we worked to plan, purchase, prepare, serve, and clean up a Family Night meal. On Tuesday nights at Gilda’s Club they have about 50-70 men, women, and kids coming in to participate in emotional support programs. Everyone they serve is dealing with the stress of a cancer diagnosis and they like to reduce their stress by ensuring they have a healthy meal each Tuesday before programs begin.

We had a nice size group and therefore, even more good food and options for folks to choose from! A lot of comfort food too – salad, chicken noodle soup, enchiladas, lasagne, mac & cheese, Hawaiian sandwiches and cookies.

Families seemed to enjoy the meal and we received a lot of personal compliments, including one women telling us to “please come back!” They were very thankful. As were we to help in some small way.

Click here for more information on volunteering at Gilda’s Club – they have lots of opportunities!

Hosting to Combat Hunger at St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry

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Happy New Year! I’m excited to enter our third (!) year of monthly DE volunteer opportunities. As I mentioned previously, based on the feedback from the survey many credit union colleagues completed last year, I’m changing the focus for 2017.

Therefore, 2017 will be all about helping the hungry around Madison. I chose that for a few reasons:

  1. Based on survey responses and conversations, hunger and working in food pantries and food banks were the most desired and popular opportunities to volunteer, as well as working directly with people. It’s always an amazing, rewarding and humbling experience.
  2. Also, preparing food for people at Gilda’s Club and Ronald McDonald House rose to the top. Again, food is the theme here. With all of these, especially the last two, intersect with the issue of health nicely.
  3. Hunger (or “food insecurity”) is a big issue in Madison. For example, 50% of Madison public school students get free or reduced price lunch. Feeding America’s Map the Meal Gap has determined that 11.8% of all people and 17.5% children are food insecure  in Dane County.

We kicked things off by helping out (again) at the large and busy St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry, which operates like a compact grocery store to serve between 60 and 160 families per day five days a week. Our customer-choice model of operation honors the dignity of clients and all involved in the distribution of free food to people who need it. This model also helps minimize waste and accommodates ethnic preferences by allowing clients to use “points” to shop for food their families prefer and will eat. Serving all Dane County ZIP Codes, their pantry annually gives away food valued at nearly $1.5 million to local households struggling with poverty. In a given year, they help local households with nutrition assistance over 63,000 times, including 27,000+ instances in which they help the children of the families they assist.

For this activity, we hosted clients around the pantry, some of which had been waiting hours to get food. The pantry staff was very appreciative that we were all there to help since they were really busy (the clients were too – even moreso)! As usual, it was an amazing experience and always a “Mad DE Group” volunteer favorite.

(Apologies to Megan Balogh & Lois Haag not pictured above, but also were there to volunteer – we started as soon as we “clocked in”!)

Picking out Toys via Empty Stocking Club for Families in Need

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For the last volunteer outing of the year during the holidays, I looked for an opportunity to bring a little happiness to those less fortunate! So our group of credit union people revisited something we did last year, with mostly new volunteers.

We helped out at the 98th annual Toy Depot which was held December 12-14 in the Exhibition Hall at the Alliant Energy Center where the Empty Stocking Club distributed toys to approximately 3,500+ families and more than 10,000 children.

For almost 100 years, the Wisconsin State Journal’s Empty Stocking Club’s goal has always been the same: Make sure children receive at least one nice gift at Christmastime.

For this activity, we worked as “Toy Helpers,” helping the families pick out the toys for their children. It reminded me of assisting people at local food pantries, where you are with someone individually (or a family) and walk them through the site, letting them decide what they want based on their sheet. In this case, instead of points for food, they got to choose one toy per child – everything from infant toys, dolls (very popular), Star Wars items, remote control cars (also very popular), craft items, games, electronics, sports-related items, and much more. There was a great selection and felt good to be part of bringing happiness to boys and girls in the area during the holidays!

Making Kids’ Birthdays Special through Box of Balloons

Ever since doing an activity like this in March, I’ve been asked to do it again (I even put together a birthday box with my daughter as a way to give back during our joint birthdays in April). This time, our group of credit union people stepped it up and worked to provide joy, hope and celebration for two (!) children and their families on their birthdays!

Box of Balloons is a non-profit organization on a mission to make each birthday happy and every child celebrated. Every child deserves to feel special, be celebrated and have a memorable party.  Unfortunately that is not possible or many families. 22% of children in America live below the poverty level, and although they support of basic survival needs being met first, they also believe that a birthday celebration can give economically challenged families the hope they may be missing. Their focus is to ensure each child feels special and celebrated on their birthday despite a family’s current situation, living conditions, or financial status.

For this activity, I reached out to Box of Balloons and we – exclusively – planned two birthday parties. One for a girl turning 6 who likes dancing and dolls and another for a boy turning 7 who really likes Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles! It’s really easy and fun. They send you a list for each box/party of about 8 items (each ranged from $5-$10). It was a chance to make their day special, without him knowing. As far as most children know, volunteers (like us) had nothing to do with the Box of Balloon supplies and the party was from their parents.

As you can tell by the pictures, everyone helped put together an awesome and creative party for each child! From all the decorations to the party favors to the games to the gifts…even the boxes came out so special.

If you are interested in getting involved with Box of Balloons, here is more information.

Special thanks to all who participated and helped out in some way – Kris Ackley, John Cassidy, Eric Christiansen, Marnie Gerkhardt, Kristina Grebener, Brenda Halverson, Jessica Hrubes, Amy Nigrelli, Angela Prestil, Jessica Scheidler, Natalie Sherry, Sarah Stout, Brianne Williamson and Lacey Yasick.

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