We’re feeling like we’re kind of close to the front lines at Stepping Stones right now. Certainly not like health care workers must feel and not any more so than other essential service providers, but we’re all finding out right now what is truly essential. Food and shelter certainly rank right up there.
We were able to get all our current Winter Haven shelter guests transitioned to other housing so have already switched Winter Haven back to two shelter apartments, just a bit earlier than our planned end of March closing. Both of our shelters will stay open — we’re lucky they’re apartment style with private entrances and no need for overnight staffing.
We’ve scrambled to make rapid changes in how we distribute food through the pantry. We’re open regular pantry hours but it’s all curbside pick-up of pre-packed food boxes now — both fresh food and non-perishables. We have signage and volunteers to help direct cars to the pick-up spot alongside the building, volunteers who get people’s name and household size, and volunteers to load the food. We’re already seeing record numbers. Anyone in need is welcome whether or not you’ve previously used the pantry. No registration is necessary for the first pick-up. We ask for an email or address to send the registration form to for subsequent visits.
We will continue Project SAM (weekend kids’ meal bags), distributing them here at Stepping Stones and also through the Menomonie schools that are providing free to-go breakfasts and lunches for any child/youth age 18 and under. Information about the school meals was sent out to all families of students in the school district; the number to sign up is (715) 232-1642, ext. 11064. Any child/youth in need is welcome to receive a weekly Project SAM bag. It doesn’t matter if the child previously received the bags or not and no special registration is necessary.
All other pantry programs are continuing with necessary modifications. More specifics are available on our website: www.steppingstonesdc.org. Feed My People Food Bank and the umbrella organization for food shelves and pantries, Feeding America, is making every effort to ensure we can be well supplied.
We do not plan to close or run out of food. We have always been, and will continue to be, a place people turn to in times of crisis. But to keep this promise we need support. We need financial contributions and volunteer help. Many of our current volunteers are in the high risk category and some have needed to step down for now. Help with packing food boxes is an urgent need. We’re limiting the number of volunteers here at any given time and taking every precaution we can to keep volunteers, staff, and clients as safe as possible. We have shifts every day except Sundays — just give us a call: (715) 235-2920.
I think everyone is feeling vulnerable right now. Everything seems so uncertain and changes are happening so quickly. It’s always true that no one knows what the future holds but it seems even more true now. Is it possible for a truism to become truer? I don’t know, but you know what I mean! People who live on a limited income or from paycheck to paycheck, and those who now may no longer have a paycheck, cannot afford to stockpile necessities, much less hoard them. They depend on places like Stepping Stones. Please help us be there for them.
Katherine Dutton is the executive director of Stepping Stones of Dunn County. She can be reached by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
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