By Angela Loucks
United Way Volunteer Center Director
WISCONSIN RAPIDS — It may seem inconceivable that hunger exists in south Wood County, but it does. One of the places it is most evident is every Thursday, and the last two Tuesdays of the month, at United Methodist Church when The Neighborhood Table (TNT) conducts its free community meal. It’s a place where residents can socialize, enjoy a hot meal and not worry about where food will come from for one evening.
As you can imagine, six community meals per month does not magically happen. It takes a lot of volunteers to pull each meal off.
Two TNT volunteers were selected for appreciation at the Volunteer Recognition Breakfast – Lisa Borre and Theresa Chao. Each volunteer brings unique skills and passion to the organization!
Lisa is a board member and meal team liaison, but over the years she’s been involved in all areas of operation.
“I love helping people!” said Lisa. “I enjoy getting to know our guests and visiting with them. Our guests know that I am always available to help. TNT is important to me because it provides so many meals for those in need and a safe place where community members can visit and share a hot meal together.”
“Service to others makes my heart feel good!” continued Lisa. “When I help others it makes me smile. I always try to help whenever I can. It is so rewarding!”
As one of the meal coordinators, Theresa puts in several hours a month organizing one meal.
“A month prior to the meal date, I plan the menu using food items in our inventory, and confirm with the sponsor,” Theresa explained. “Two weeks prior, I call the sponsor to see if they have enough volunteers for meal service. A week prior, I do the final check. If there aren’t enough volunteers I call the ones we have on our waiting list.”
According to Theresa, each meal consists of a meal coordinator, chef, take-out order coordinator, dishwasher, closer, security person, and distribution coordinator; and there is a team for each of these functions and each member takes turns volunteering.
“Working together as a team, we make the meal run smoothly,” said Theresa. “It gives great satisfaction when you see people coming with family members, friends, or caregivers to enjoy the meal. TNT is important because it relieves hunger in our community. Many do not have adequate meals at home. It also builds friendship among people.”
Lisa, a 4K teacher at Woodside Elementary School, even uses TNT as a way to teach service learning to her students.
“My 4K students collect napkins for TNT,” said Lisa. “They try to earn a few dollars at home by being helpful so they can buy napkins. We talk about how it makes them feel to help others at home and in our community. This year we collected 7,560 napkins for TNT. We ended our project by going to TNT and setting the tables using napkins we collected. It is never too early to start volunteering!”
Currently, TNT is in need of volunteers including anyone with experience in fundraising and grant writing; and an attorney to join their board of directors.
Currently there is an urgent need for meal coordinators as some of the volunteers are resigning after the summer.
Theresa mentions “planning a meal is not as hard as one might think… especially with modern technology! You can find recipes online and adjust its quantity. You can shadow a current meal coordinator until you feel comfortable going solo. It’s a rewarding experience. Won’t you give it a try?”
For more information, call the Volunteer Center at 715-421-0390; or visit http://www.volunteerinnerwisc.org/agency/detail/?agency_id=8177