A northeastern Wisconsin food pantry is marking 30 years of helping families make it through tough times. The St. Joeseph Food program serves 11,000 people in a four county area, and does it without government assistance.
The program has evolved to the point where it now receives support from some of the area's biggest corporations -- like Kimberly Clark -- as well as churches and other volunteers.
Spokesperson Karen Ziemke says usage has fluctuated along with the local economies' layoffs and recoveries, "In 1982 we had 120 individuals and as I told you we have about eleven thousand now. And that's 30 years. After 2008 we spiked then leveled off then about a year ago we noticed another uptick."
Ziemke says that uptick is across the board, with new clients, renewals, and people coming more often.
The pantry uses federal income guidelines to help determine who is eligible. It requires clients to present a social security card from every person in a household, along with photo id's and proof of income.
Still, Ziemke says because it is privately run St. Joseph can relax or tighten services on an individual basis, "We rely on the generosity of the community. We're not, have never gotten government funding in 30 years. We've been able to do it because we have a large amount of volunteers who are very dedicated and long term. And our community has been very generous."
Besides the 11,000 individuals it serves St. Joseph's also helps an estimated 1,300 people at homeless and domestic violence shelters.