Dream Catcher

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Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Karen Tredwell

Today I was honored to speak with Karen Tredwell, Executive Director of the Food Pantry of Waukesha.

I asked her about how many people does the pantry feed? “It’s best if I show you.” She took me to the counter. Underneath were boxes of pink and white cards. “Those are our clients.” “About how many do you think you have?” “Three thousand families,” she said. “Do they ever leave?” “Those are our active files.” Pointing to a much larger bunch of files in another section of the counter, she said, “Those are the inactive ones.”

Each client has a card, a record, color coded for the size of their family. Either they are receiving help or they have hopefully raised themselves . . . The Pantry is opened on Saturday’s or Weekdays in the afternoons. Clients are allowed to come in and take enough food for three days of breakfasts, lunches and dinners.

Karen pointed to the food shelves. “Just when I thought we were holding our own . . . Yesterday we had 74 families in a 2 hour period.”

The members of the food pantry do their best at maximizing stretching the food donated. Last year they were just shy $1,000,000 in food given out. Of that $180,000 they purchased and the rest due to donations.

The Pantry’s Services include;
+Home Delivery to 70 households
+A Diet Program for those with special needs
+Serving Sandwiches for those with housing needs
+Birthday Special for small children
The family’s food package includes a cake mix, frosting,
candles and a small gift.

The Pantry receives a subsidy from by Federal and State Governments. “Remember the Butter and Cheese program?” She asked. This reporter remembers them from Iowa, the lines of people waiting at the back of a semi-trailer full of butter and cheese. That was in the eighties . . . Well it has evolved into a sort of farmer subsidy for undervalued products. I.E. Pork when prices were at an all time low. Today the Pantry expects to receive cereal, rice or pasta, maybe peanut butter, fruit and dry beans.

Karen was proud to state, “The Food Pantry of Waukesha County never turns anyone away empty handed, although, we may redirect those from other counties to the programs in their own communities . . . Once a client threw a sandwich on the floor and stomped on it. We had to do something, so we gave him a time out, a respite of a month without our services. He’s back, but he might be in need of another break.”

“We try not to judge clients . . . But sometimes it’s hard. One particular Thanksgiving comes to mind, a client called us. She was unable to come in during her lunch. I was helping her to her car carrying a frozen turkey, stuffing and all the fixings for a Thanksgiving meal. She had pulled up in a brand new Cadillac. I wanted to say something, but how. When she opened her trunk, I said, You keep a neat trunk. You don’t think this is mine, she said. I could see her tears swell up in her eyes. I told my boss I needed some time to get my food. He asked me why? Why, right. I said, Because I have to take the bus. That’s when he handed me his keys.”

If I had one wish in this world, it would be to end the pain of hunger for all. Dreams are yours to share.

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