Rhinelander Area Food Pantry will soon have a new home
When it comes to feeding the hungry in this area, there are a lot of people willing to step up to the plate.
That’s evident when you walk through the doors of the former Golden Harvest building on Coon Street in Rhinelander. Volunteers are working diligently remodeling, painting and taking out and putting in floors, ceilings and other chores so the new Rhinelander Area Food Pantry can open its doors as soon as possible.
“It’s sort of a big mess right now but it’s starting to come together,” said Guy Hansen, food pantry director.
This remodeling project is the accumulation of more than two years of hunting for the right property to relocate the pantry. Currently it is housed in St. Joe’s Thrift Shop on Brown Street but as the program has grown, space has become a high priority. The food pantry has been in operation since 2005.
“There’s also some safety concerns especially with the elevator and stairs there,” said Guy. “We’ve had a couple of bad accidents and with this new facility everything will be on one floor.”
The old pantry included 5,000 square feet while this new facility will be 7,200 square feet. In addition to the added space for sorting and keeping food refrigerated and frozen there is also a classroom area which will be used for a multitude of purposes.
“It will be used as a seating area as well as a classroom space,” said Jane Motowski, manager of the pantry. “We are collaborating with Nicolet College and UW-Extension to hold GED classes, literary programs and even nutritional classes as time goes on.”
The pantry currently provides food for between 350 to 450 households a month. It is open three times a week and more than 400 volunteers help distribute, unload or package the food within a month.
“We can have anywhere from 40 to 60 people come and get food during a session,” said Jane. Some of those people may even come a couple of times a month depending on how many people are in their family. Different civic groups help us at the pantry. We couldn’t do it without their help.”
The food to stock the pantry comes from a variety of outlets. Wal-Mart and Kwik Trip are part of the Feeding America campaign and donate many items. The community garden also supplies food as well as Trig’s, Golden Harvest, Friendship House and a variety of other businesses. Even local gardeners donate produce from their own plots.
“Very little goes to waste here,” said Jane. “If we have food we don’t or can’t use we donate that to an area wildlife rehabilitation place.”
Jane and Guy aren’t sure of the exact date when the new pantry will open its doors. There are some major improvements that need to be completed yet. For instance next week a new roof will go on as the building has several major leaks. That was evident last week as rain fell steadily.
In addition, a new ceiling has to be hung in one section of the building and there are some heating and air conditioning issues to work out and shelving to be installed. And then there is the major project of moving the old pantry to its new spot.
Guy and Jane are unsure of an exact date when the facility will be open but fingers are crossed that there could be a grand opening in the beginning of October, providing volunteers keep up their committed resolve to help their neighbors and friends who need a helping hand.
“There’s no better feeling than being able to help other people,” said Guy. “Food is a basic need and when people fall on hard times it’s important they have a place to turn to get what they need to feed their families. That’s what keeps us all motivated.”
Volunteers are always needed at the food pantry. To find out more call 715-369-7237.